Cutter Paul, the Hands-on Hatter, Beautifies the World One Head at a Time

As he settles into his new City Park studio, Cutter Paul surrounds himself with tools of his trademark hats. A household brand in the custom hat-making business, Cutter Paul speaks to the almost-lost art of craftsmanship and living one’s life as art. 

In Cutter’s Denver workspace, a row of wooden hat blocks pose as perfectly dome-shaped noggins; once a chapeau is initially blocked, Cutter will shape it by hand after the precise shape of a client’s head. There’s a Singer sewing machine for crafting each sweatband, and then Cutter’s hand stitches the band into the finished product. One side of the band bears his name along with the vintage, or year, it was crafted— “my ode to wine,” he says, with a smile. On the other side of the band, the client may choose what connects with them most, from a “custom made for—” label to a quote that resonates for them.

Cutter Paul

The milliner and his motorcycle.
Photo Credit: Will Albino

Because each hat is an extension of its bearer, Cutter likes to know what makes each client tick. “I invite them over and have them pick out some vinyl,” he says. Their choice of record—from the Stones to Coltrane—gives him a feel for their personality, which inevitably informs their style. He offers a glass of wine, white or red, and the energy keeps flowing. Once he has a truer sense of a person, Cutter sinks it into his work. “I picture each client when I’m crafting their hat,” he says. “When you make something bespoke for someone, it’s truly special.”

Cutter’s hat journey came through winemaking, his first love and hands-on enterprise. As a sommelier at a local friend’s restaurant, he soon discovered a preference for being part of the ‘making’ process. “I realized I didn’t want to run a restaurant or be a sommelier,” he says. “I wanted to get my hands dirty.”

As a longtime Denverite and resident of Berkeley’s Tennyson Street neighborhood, replete with cafes, restaurants and colorful spaces like Cesar Chavez Park, this Versailles, Kentucky native credits the world of wine for widening his own (“Not many people leave VerSAILS,” he reports, with a laugh.)

“When you travel for wine, you inherit this family; share meals with people from all walks of life. It’s a powerful way to immerse yourself in a different culture. In 2017, some friends bought a 20-acre vineyard in Paonia, Colorado, and invited Cutter to be a part of it. “I went from downtown Denver to sitting on a tractor,” he says. “I loved it.”

In Paonia, a newly made friend invited him to a cookout. “There was a guy there named Charlie, and he was wearing this great hat,” he says. “When I asked him about it, he told me he’d made it himself.”

Charlie was building a hat shop in his garage, it turns out, and Cutter offered to help.
Soon enough, Charlie asked if he’d like to make his own hat. “Hell yeah!” was the response.

Cutter Paul, Denver hatmaker

Cutter Paul, Denver hatmaker. Photo credit: Sash Levitov

And like Charlie, his first milliner mentor, when people complimented Cutter’s hat, he told them he made it himself. “They kept doing it,” he says. “It was like the universe was telling me something.”

In 2020, Cutter was hit by a drunk driver on his motorcycle. The universe spoke a little louder.

It was a long time in hospital and the doctors told him he’d lose his right hand. It was then the ‘coulda woulda shoulda’ began. Was he doing what he wanted with his life? Had he missed that chance? “I was at an all-time physical and mental low when my good friend Katie stopped by. I was laying in bed with a cast on both arms, and she said, ‘Before I tell you this, just know it’s already happening and there is nothing you can do about it. We’re doing a fundraiser to help buy hat-making equipment for when, not if, your hand heals.’”

Though there’s still nerve damage, Cutter recovered, and his friends raised a few thousand dollars toward his new vocation. After buying a set of hat blocks and taking classes from the likes of Tom Hirt, legendary Hollywood hatmaker for films like Tombstone, it was time to strike out on his own. “As creatives, we all battle imposter syndrome,” reflects Cutter. “Ultimately, my own craft came from a lot of doing, hands-on practice rather than waiting for someone to show me everything.”

Another happy customer in her inimitable hat
Photo Credit: Isabel Henry

Living Proof of a Dying Breed is his motto, a testament to craft over mass production and creating wearable art with two hands. And like winemaking, which still draws Cutter away during harvest season, the millinery trade lends itself to travel, adventure and international connections who value his organic process.

Musicians, artists and winemakers wear his creations, and a growing clientele spans continents.
“I had to get some hats to Italy and when I saw the shipping costs, I was like, ‘I’ll bring ‘em myself.” Hand-delivering those hand-made custom hats became its own reward. “I flew to Rome to deliver a hat to the ever-inspiring Winemaker, Cristiana Tiberio in Abruzzo, then hopped on a train to Piemonte, where the remaining hats found their forever home.”

Post-accident, Cutter’s back on Jolene, his motorcycle—she waits patiently on the front stoop of his Tennyson Street rowhome. He stays in the moment and works his craft with the fullest intention of his soul. Like the hands that shape it, a Cutter Paul hat has a story to tell.

To inquire or begin the journey to a bespoke, one-of-a-kind hat, contact Cutter Paul or find him on Instagram @cutterpaul_.