Barker and Barker Black Shoes
View Barker Shoe collections on London Fashion Review Blog
Heritage of Barker Shoes
The Barker Shoes brand was founded in 1880 by the skilled craftsman and natural innovator, the boot-maker Arthur Barker. His first big creation was the highly sought after peg sole boots; the pegs would swell when wet, making the sole waterproof. Soon after the shoes release, demand for his waterproof boots were so high that he had to employ other talented craftsmen in the surrounding villages to keep up with his customers. At the dawn of the 20th Century, demand was so high that Barker saw fit to invest in factory premises, which allowed the brand to contribute to the First World War effort making boots for the British Army. They would be called into action once again during the Second World War.
During the interwar years, the Barker brand continued to go from strength to strength. Arthur’s three sons joined the family business helping to take the brand into new markets and territories. Soon after the Second World War, the brand expanded into the women’s footwear market and in 1947, a new factory was opened to house the women’s operation. The brand was expanding so quickly that in 1950, Barker set up a separate sales company to sell direct to retailers. In 1986 the brand built a new factory and office space in Earl’s Barton just a few hundred yards away from the original site of 1880.
As of 2011, the Earl’s Barton factory and offices remained the brands Headquarters and it is this factory that allows Barker to produce 200,000 pairs of shoes annuall
The Barker brand has continued to grow and expand, but still works on to the original philosophy of founder Arthur Baker. He believed that traditional shoe styles, such as brogue and oxford shoes, need not be old-fashioned, but they must be manufactured to the highest quality. Although modern methods have been introduced over the years, it is evident that the same skills, traditions and craftsmanship are used today. As of 2011, the Barker brand is available globally through high quality retailers and online boutiques. A full list of stockists can be found on the official Barker website.
Barker Shoes: Important Dates
- 1880: The Barker brand is established by Arthur Barker in the village of Earls Barton in Northampton.
- 1914-1945: The Barker brand was committed to helping with the war effort during both World War I and II, by making boots for the British Army.
- 1947: The women’s footwear range is launched and a new factory is built in Earls Barton to house the women’s shoe operation.
- 1986: The Barker brand moves to a new factory and office space which allows the company to produce 200,000 pairs of shoes annually, while still keeping to the traditions of founder, Arthur Barker.
- 2003: An offshoot brand of Barker, known as ‘Barker Black’ was founded as a modern alternative to Barker Shoes and launched in the United States.
Barker Black was founded in 2003 when brothers Derrick and Kirk Miller approached Barker Shoes, with their concept for Barker Black, a modern alternative to Barker Shoes. The modern, sleek take on the heritage of Barker Shoes, gained the brand almost instant recognition, appearing in the premiere issue of Men’s Vogue in September of 2005. From then on Barker Black was to be a regular feature on the pages of the most prestigious fashion magazines, including Details and Esquire. In 2007, Barker Black was chosen by GQ magazine as one of the best new fashion labels in America. Since then Kirk Miller has moved on to start his own bespoke tailoring brand, Miller’s Oath, but Derek Miller, previously a designer at Ralph Lauren, remains on as Designer and Creative Director of Barker Black.
Barker Black honours the tradition of craftsmanship of their parent brand to create quality shoes and accessories with a distinct modern styling. Barker Black also offers a bespoke service in which, customers can choose from a variety of skins in the store’s leather book, or swap different styles and shapes. Derrick Miller explains “While we want to keep the integrity of the design, we also want to allow the customer freedom of self-expression.”
“Our shoes walk the line between being old-fashioned and avant-garde,” – Creative Director Derrick Miller.
The Barker Black core collection is inspired by The 17th Lancers, an ancient regiment of the British Guardsmen. The regiments original logo was a skull and crossbones, along with their motto ‘…or glory’, which together essentially meant ‘Death or Glory’. It is this ‘Death or Glory’ motto which forms the foundation of the Barker Black aesthetic. When creating each collection, Barker Black imagines how the modern day Lancer would dress, which results in a collection that is young, sophisticated and sleek – with a touch of arrogance. The presence of the Lancer is present in each shoe, be it in the crown leather cut-out in a traditional penny loafer or delicate broguing on a toe in the shape of the skull and crossbones.
As of 2011, Barker Black has become one of the most coveted luxury footwear brands in the USA. Their collections are available at their flagship boutique on New York’s Elizabeth Street as well as their standalone store in Los Angeles. The Barker Black wares are also available at premium boutiques, including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Jeffrey, Colette, United Arrows, and 10 Corso Como.
Visit the official Barker website here.