You could say William Carlton Workshop is your grandfather’s hat store.
“People walk by this store and think it was opened in 1938,” says founder and self-taught milliner Steve Finch. “We just laugh because that’s exactly what we’re going for.”
Decked out with vintage art, textiles, and other ephemera, the North End boutique and studio has been turning out custom retro caps—rakish newsboys, military-style chapeaus with earflaps, and more—since Finch and friends Max Levy and Dave Jameson opened the doors in late September. (The trio also makes leather bags and other accessories, and designs heavyweight selvedge denim.) “I feel that I was just born an old man—I’ve always been that way,” says Finch, who named the workshop after his grandfather. “The whole shop is more or less inspired by grandfathers…any cool old guy who’s dressed right and knows how to work with his hands.”
It’s appropriate, then, that all of Finch’s old-school hats are made by hand. The process begins with a fitting, after which the customer selects the fabric and style. The turnaround time for each topper, stitched on antique sewing machines, is anywhere from two weeks to a month. Currently, Finch, Levy, and Jameson fill all the orders themselves, but they are also planning to launch a domestically produced workwear line (four or five hat styles, plus a few leather goods) online. Handcrafted boots are also on the horizon.
For now, though, Finch is happy that his dream of opening a store has become a reality. “This whole thing—American-made and handmade—is a trend throughout the U.S., but we’re just doing what we love,” he says.
148A Salem St., Boston, 415-622-7534, wcworkshop.bigcartel.com.
William Carlton Workshop’s brand mascot, Bentley, greets customers outside.
The hats are stitched on antique Singer sewing machines.
Max Levy works on a wallet.