Meet the Maker

Eric Watson of Watson's Hat Shop

In Arizona, we know about cowboy culture; and no piece completes the look more than the iconic cowboy hat. And many, whether it's an authentic Western hat or a custom statement piece they're seeking, eventually find their way to Watson's Hat Shop in Cave Creek.

To set foot into Watson's Hat Shop—in Cave Creek, 33 miles or 40 minutes north of Phoenix—is to step back into time.

As a young craftsman Eric Watson reveled in the details and the history of the craft, so much so that when he opened Watson's Hat Shop in Cave Creek in 2011, he purchased antique machinery (some dating from the 1800s) on which to make and restore hats.

A 1900s-era crown iron machine purrs and clicks as it molds beaver felt onto a hat block. The 1926 blocking table hisses as steam shapes hat brims. Shelves of centuries-old wood hat blocks stretch from floor to ceiling. And amid the symphony of sounds, Watson, his wife Emily and apprentice Alex Cabrera stitch thread, stretch felt, size heads and sew ribbons.

Even if you’re not in the market for a custom, handmade hat, you'll find master hatter Eric Watson's detailed 64-step process fascinating.

The commercially trained pilot-turned-bespoke-hatter follows a precise 200-year-old technique to craft a single hat, a method that's earned Watson a reputation as one of the most respected hat makers in the country.

His hats adorn the likes of Justin Timberlake, Kenny Chesney and featured in the Netflix original series "Godless." However, it's the Arizona ranchers and cowboys who frequent Watson's shop for custom hats built for the wear and tear of their work that affirm the maker's status as the real deal.

About the Author

Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by the staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and occasionally local tourism organizations around the state.