Barker are English shoemakers based in Northampton and well known for their high quality shoes made according to the best traditions of English shoemaking.
Whilst passing by their Jermyn Street Shop a fortnight ago I was a little surprised to see a crowd gathered outside the shop. Barker were running a 10% off promotion. However, that was not the reason that a crowd had gathered. It would require a much bigger discount than this to generate that kind of response.
The reason for the crowd was not a price but a person, two in fact. Barker had supplied 2 of its shoemakers (who had met each other at Barker as youngsters and eventually married) who were only too happy to demonstrate elements of how Barker shoes are made. Their skill and personality, and the fact that one of them (Phil) was demonstrating his skills on the street outside the shop gathered a crowd.Phil (a 48-year veteran at Barker!) was happy to talk and to share some of his extensive experience. He was also able to confirm some gossip. Barker make shoes for a number of other outfitters, including Charles Tyrwhitt.
Inside the shop things got even more interesting. There one had the opportunity to meet Dawn (a 32-year Barker veteran) demonstrating some of the hand sewing and stitch marking that goes into a Barker shoe.
However, it was once I got to meet PJ that things got properly interesting. Turns out that PJ’s particular skill is creating a highly polished finish to Barker’s shoes, as demonstrated on the toe cap of the back Oxfords he’s holding below.PJ was able to show me how shoes looked as they came out from the factory compared to how they looked once he had worked his magic. For more on PJ’s work follow him on Instagram @modfx7 to see what he can do with shoe leather.
I don’t (yet) own any Barker shoes, though my collection includes a number of Tyrwhitts, some of which I may have been made by Barker. However, if I did I think I might want to pop into Barker on Jermyn Street to ask PJ to work his magic on them….