Vintage hat maker puts a lid on childhood dream

“The Hatter Is In,” reads the sign above Watson’s Hat Shop in Cave Creek. Visitors take a step back in time once they pass under it. From brim molds to beaver felts, young, master hat maker Eric Watson is fulfilling his childhood dream.

Watson got into the business of hat making when the market had taken a turn in his home state of Ohio. He and his wife agreed it was time to make a change and moved to Arizona where Watson followed his dream and became full-time hat maker.

“My passion for hat making started at the age of 13. Unable to find a high quality ‘Indiana Jones’ fedora, I was inspired to learn the art of hat making by restoring fine vintage hats as old as 1912,” said Watson. “Even though I have a dual degree from two different colleges, one in international studies and diplomacy and peace and one in aviation technology with a specialty in professional piloting, and hold my commercial multi-engine pilots license – it’s hat making that takes me to new levels.”

Watson takes his craft very seriously, putting in the same care and respect master hatters did in the Old West. He also works with master silversmiths making his fine hat bands, a bead maker who can craft hat bands and fine belts and leather smiths who make everything from belts to hat bands. His hats are made from from the finest blends of pure beaver, European hare and Cuenca from Ecuador to create hand woven straw Panama hats. Every hat is completely customized, hand stamped in gold leaf with the wearers initials, using a lettering machine that dates back 100 years ago.

Almost everything Watson uses is antique, from hat blocks that have been used for hundreds of years to his 1930s sewing machine.

So how does Watson create you the perfect hat? First, he sits you down in front of a mirror and gently places a “Conformiture” on your head, which is the original antique sizing apparatus that measures the circumference of your head. He then uses an age-old technique to figure out the hat sizing through precise mathematical measurements to create a perfect hat for every individual.

To experience Watson’s Hat shop for yourself: 6140 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, Arizona. You can also visit his website at www.watsonshatshop.com.