Having been the youngest hat-maker when he began, Eric Watson of Watson’s Hat Shop has come a long way, designing hats for the NETFLIX Series “Godless” is a huge step in his career. In addition to Godless, Watson has created a hat for the character “Cole” in the SyFy series 12 Monkeys fourth season.
According to Watson, “One of my fortes is replica hats, since that is how I started my career. Falling for hats like those in Raiders of the Lost Arc. with Harrison Ford’s hat started me down a path to all kinds hat creations from movie to television to musicians.”
The hat over the door at Watson’s reads “The Hatter Is In”. Step inside of Watson’s Hat Shop any time of day, and you will feel as though a time machine has enveloped you, placing you back in the late 1800’s. Brim molds, beaver felts, hats to the ceiling and the sound of the hat steamer “shushing” with billows of steam out into the air, the low guttural clatter of the Singer Sewing machines from the 1800’s, will grab your attention. Town folk like to gather in the shop and catch up on conversation and like a conversation/history lesson from Hat Maker Eric Watson. The lessons often include what type of felt to choose for a hat that will last you a lifetime and be passed through generations, to a description on his antique machinery that is strategically placed around the shop.
Eric Watson is one of those rare “Old Souls” whose gestures, slow cadence of speech and depth of knowledge and talents have taken him to the level of youngest master hat maker in the country. So, even though Watson has a dual degree from two different colleges, one in International Studies and Diplomacy & Peace and one in Aviation Technology with a specialty in professional piloting, and holds his commercial Multi Engine pilots license – it’s hat making that makes his dreams soar. A few years ago the market had taken a turn in Ohio where Watson is from. He and his wife knew they had to make a change. Emily, Eric’s wife was able to find a pilot/instructor position in Arizona. This was their chance, take a leap of faith and follow their dream. They both soared in many ways, Emily teaching flight instruction and Eric opened his first shop, full-time as a hat maker in Cave Creek, Arizona.
According to Eric Watson, “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. I pestered my mom day in and day out to drive all over Ohio seeking out hat making equipment and talking to any hatter I could find. Hat makers don’t want to give up their secrets, but I pestered them until I found out what I wanted.” Watson continued, “So, even though I have a dual degree from two different colleges, one in International Studies and Diplomacy & 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. Later, I was fortunate to have some very experienced hatters share their craft and trade secrets of hat making.”
Watson takes his craft to new levels with master silversmiths making his fine hat bands, a bead maker who can craft hat bands and fine belts, to leather smiths who make everything from belts to hat bands. His craftsmen also include those who make braided horsehair “stampede strings” to custom saddles.
No need to travel back in time, Hatter Eric Watson cares for his hats with the same precision and respect that hat makers did in the times of the old west. Watson Hats come from some of the finest blends of pure beaver, European Hare and Cuenca from Ecuador for genuine handwoven straw Panama Hats. Hats are completely customized, hand stamped in gold leaf on every hat band with the wearers initials, ranch logo, business name, or just about anything you can think of – Master Craftsman/Artisan Eric Watson can do it all.
To get the full experience, Watson seats you down in front of the full-length tailors mirror that sits in the corner of his shop. Gently he places the “Conformateur” on your head. This is the original antique sizing apparatus that measures the circumference of your head. The wood spindles open like an accordion, forming around your head. Tiny pinpoints pop up in the center, where Watson places a small piece of paper, pressing it against the pins and getting the exact shape of your head. He then uses that age-old technique to figure out the hat sizing through precise mathematical measurements to get the perfect hat.
Most everything that Watson uses is antique, from the hat blocks that line the shelves that have been used for hundreds of years to form the finest custom hats. Everything is made by hand and he proudly states is Made in the USA– there are machines to condense and compact the fur felt on the hat bodies, to his 1930’s sewing machine used on the leather hatbands ensuring the same quality of a 100 years ago. Even his lettering machine for the hat bands themselves that carry the hat owners initials or ranch logo date back 100 years ago, gently applying gold leaf letters.
Eric’s wife, Emily, now has learned the hat making trade and works full time with Eric. Emily is creative in her own right and creates handmade floral art for the ladies hats. No matter what type of hat, Watson can make it, from Dress Fedoras, Cowboy, Western Hats, Panama’s to replica “movie” styled hats, his talents show through every hat he creates.
So no matter where you “hang your hat” you can be sure that it’s the finest and authentic if it’s a Watson.
Watson’s Hat shop is located at 7100 E. Cave Creek Road, #148 in Stagecoach Village, Cave Creek, Arizona. Visit the web at www.watsonshatshop.com. Hours: Monday 10 am-4 pm; Tuesday – Saturday 10 am-6:30 pm. The phone number is (480) 595-9777