Deeply proud of his family owned and operated business, Gary remains hands-on in every aspect of the business, from material selection to design to the final product. Gary’s wife, Merry Lee contributes to design and creative development; son Garth is second in command; and daughter-in-law Hannah is the Director of Global Marketing and Branding.
Last but not least, Gary’s son, Garth Watrous, is affectionately known in the warehouse as “the closer.” Garth has an innate ability to make one last tweak to a design, or add the perfect element to elevate the finished product and make the line even stronger. Considering Garth “cut his teeth on leather” as a small child watching his father work, his sense for what can be improved upon or adjusted should come as no surprise!
As you can see, American Hat Makers is truly dedicated to the entire artistic process and welcomes creativity and ingenuity across the board.
Come see what we have in store for you!
Gary & MerryLee
Garth & Hannah
You may already know that American Hat Makers offers six lines of high-quality, artisan crafted, made in America hats. What you may not know is that we have award-winning and world-renown artists designing exclusively for us.
With nearly 40 years of experience making high-quality leather goods, our business is built upon long-term partnerships with our customers. These relationships are made possible by our long-term relationships with some of the hippest, hottest, and most talented designers out there.
In turn, these relationships allow us to continually evolve and refine our product line. This means we consistently offer a dynamic array of styles designed to fit almost any taste. If you can dream it, we probably already make it!
Each of our one-of-a-kind designers is dedicated to consistent high-quality, artisan character, unique design, fashion-forward innovation, creativity, and industry recognition – from the most incredible tattoos to steampunk, from cosplay to the runway.
Let us introduce you to our amazing designers!
Our list of designers would be remiss if we didn’t include our founder and commander in chief, Gary Watrous. Gary is the artisan leather man behind all American Hat Makers has become and will be.
Gary started selling hats out of the back of his car in the 70s and over the last forty years, he has put his heart and soul into building the success of the company. Not only is he profoundly passionate about leatherwork and hat making, he is equally enamored with the team of people working with him at our Watsonville warehouse and boutique.
Merry-Lee is a world-renown, award-winning, Cloisonné artist. (Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects – frequently with enamel, glass, or gemstones.) Merry-Lee brings over 30 years of enameling experience to her gorgeous designs showcasing her artistic vision through the medium of fine leather. Her hats are an integral – and impressive - part of both our Steampunk and Ashbury brands. Her otherworldly designs, Kraken and Draco are two of our Top Sellers.
Merry-Lee has said she sees herself as “a dedicated romantic expressing love of life through my art.” And speaking of romance, Merry-Lee happens to be married to our talented founder, Gary Watrous. They met in the 1970s when they were in adjacent booths at an art festival. Now that’s a match made in entrepreneurial heaven!
Dominique de Leon
Dominique de Leon comes from a long line of talented artists. Her great-grandparents and grandparents were musicians and performers, and her father is a highly creative – and prolific – artist and graphic designer who spent two decades in product design for the iconic surf company, O’Neill.
Clearly, the creative gene has been passed down to Dominique who brings her fantastical vision and experience in the world of cosplay to bear in her hat designs for American Hat Makers’ VooDoo and Steampunk Hatter lines.
Dominique’s expertise in painting, airbrush, and laser engraving are artfully showcased on hats such as the enchanting Deadly Love and the whimsical Quinn.
American Hat Makers is privileged to have the up-and-coming, creative Dominique De Leon on our team of top-notch and innovative designers.
Tattoo artist Adam Rose says he draws inspiration from “the ocean, mountains, and the ridiculousness that keeps daily life entertaining.”
A true artist who enjoys working in many forms – from tattoos to pastels, acrylics to watercolor and now leather, Adam creates some of our most ambitious designs. In fact, his designs for American Hat Makers often require hand painting, hand airbrushing, and laser etching the hats to bring his designs to life.
His creative ingenuity has paid off as his styles are consistent Top Sellers for us. His hat, Wisdom, is an eye-catching tribute to his respect for owls. Adam’s love for the natural world and its wild inhabitants is evident in all his work.
Clearly, his passion translates well the medium of leather, feather, and laser, as celebrities like Jamie Foxx are consistently drawn to his work.
Ruby Roxanne Agresta
Ruby comes to us from the world of fashion with a drive and level of joyous dedication that we all find inspiring. Her work has been featured on the runway at New York Fashion Week for Tumbler & Tipsy, and a gold metallic top hat Ruby designed was featured on the cover of Lux-PR Magazine.
Ruby’s ever growing line, "Ruby Roxanne Designs exclusively for American Hat Makers," complements her popular and well-known line of specialty leather cuffs often seen on the wrists of Hollywood stars.
Ruby is looking forward to developing and expanding her line of couture headwear for American Hat Makers. “I love that we both are American brands and make everything by hand in the USA,” Ruby says. “The production team we have in Watsonville brings the most beautiful craftsmanship and design skills.”
Every component that goes into Ruby’s designs is carefully selected with an eye for the finest materials. Ruby’s hands-on involvement and impeccable vision of the finished product ensure that every detail is flawlessly executed.
Thanks to Ruby’s high-fashion aesthetic and business sense, American Hat Makers is poised to make a name in the world of haute couture!
Gary would be the first to say that the success of American Hat Makers is shared amongst the entire hat making team. Behind the scenes, many of the sewers bring years of experience in the manufacture and production of fine leather goods. Pilo spent time in Mexico working with leather shoes, and Mercedes’ experience began with hand making leather bags.
Our incredible team with a background of sewing, shoes, leather jackets, wedding dresses, lingerie: Pilo, Agustin, Mercedes, Rigo, Silvia and Elena.