Santa Cruz, California is a place with loads of history, and even some true American success stories. The back of a Chevrolet station wagon seems like an unlikely place to start a globally known hat company, but crazier things have happened. In 1972, Gary Watrous invested $40 in leather hide and did just that when he founded the American Hat Maker Company. Starting out by pounding handmade leather accessories on the tail bed, Gary went from craft fairs, to art shows, to flea markets selling his accessories, and as fate would have it, one day he had a booth located next to a man making leather hats. Gary loved what he was doing, and wanted to wear his own, so he had the man teach him the craft of making a leather hat.
Gary used his newfound knowledge to craft himself a hat for his own use, and very quickly found that everyone who came to his booth wherever he was thereafter wanted him to make them one too! Soon enough Gary’s station wagon proved too small to grow a successful business and he moved into a facility on his ranch in Santa Cruz, California! Quickly transitioning into making leather hats full-time, Gary grew from the one man solo craftsman, to having an ever-growing team of skilled artists to fill the needs of top hat makers, sun hat makers, fedora makers, and cowboy hat makers. The American Hat Maker Company truly has the most varied assortment of styles anywhere. Today, almost 50 years later, the American Hat Maker Company is still at it, handcrafting the world’s finest hats in the heart of the west coast, Santa Cruz, California!