Cave Creek man makes custom hats through vintage techniques

Upon entering Watson's Hat Shop in downtown Cave Creek, one might not realize the art and history the shop itself holds. But for owner, Eric Watson, his little hat shop is a true gem.

Watson is considered to be one of the few master hat makers who's still in business in the United States.

"The definition of a master hat maker is one that can make the hat from start to finish, can do everything from a Panama hat to a felt hat," Watson explained.

Currently in his 30s, Watson recalls when he started working on hats in his early teens -- some hats being 80 to 100 years old, he said. He said it started because of a personal quest to find a fedora like Indiana Jones.

" I loved Indiana Jones as a kid, I wanted to be Indiana Jones." Watson said. "So I loved the fedora so that is what inspired me to go out and fix up those old hats."

After college, he wanted to pursue full-time haberdashery. He started reaching out to hat shops and master hat makers to learn the craft and acquire equipment before it disappeared, similar to the the conformitor, a hat-shaping invention.

At his own personal shop in Cave Creek, Watson said some of his equipment like a black Singer sewing machine goes as far back to the Civil War. He also said he continues to use equipment that belonged to the store owned by the Hand Family in Boston in the 1860s.

Another point of pride in Watson's Hat Shop are the vast selection of blocks for shaping hats -- many over a century old -- that he still uses today. There is al

so a table in the main showroom that displays a wide array of 33 colors that customers can choose, all ranging from earth tones to every color in the rainbow. Ribbons and hatbands can also be added to each chapeau, making the combinations endless.

Homburgs, boaters, gamblers, whatever shape the customer wants to grace their head, Watson said.

Eric is happy to offer suggestions for brim width and crown height to help accentuate the face. Although he has a huge variety of European and vintage styles, he said it is the timeless cowboy hat that brings many to this shop in the heart of Cave Creek.

Watson's Hat Shop is located in downtown Cave Creek at 6140 E Cave Creek Rd.


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