This is the tale of an ancient calvary, a daring man and shoes imbued with antediluvian character …
… A legend that begun back in 1759, when Colonel John Hale of the 47th Regiment of the Foot news of the victory in the Battle of Quebec to General James Wolfe just prior to the General’s death. Hale was rewarded with land in Canada and permission to raise a regiment of light dragoons, at first known as the 18th Regiment of (Light) Dragoons, then renumbered as the 17th in 1761 and named as a Lancer regiment in 1822.
Over the next 150 years, the 17th, also known as Hale’s Light Horse Regiment after its originator, fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill in the American War of Independence where one of its own handed George Washington the final declaration of the cessation of hostilities. Impressive.
The 17th helped quell the 1876 Indian Mutiny, was sent to Southern Africa’s Natal Colony for the Zulu War, fought in the First World War at the Battle of Cambrai (1917) and during the last-gasp German Spring Offensive as well as at the Battle of Amiens.
The enduring courage and fortitude of this ancient regiment is found in the logo Colonel Hale chose for the regiment: the skull and crossbone’s Death’s Head with the motto “Or Glory”, implying ‘Death … or Glory’ … courage and freedom, whatever the cost.
Fast forward to 2005 to Barker Shoes, the quintessentially English home of shoe craftsmanship excellence with 125 years of producing quality bench made shoes.
Barker Shoes Creative Director, Derrick Miller, was inspired to create a show brand, that was built on the subversive tradition of the 17th Lancers (who had their origins in Hale’s ‘Regiment of the Foot’, coincidence?) coming up with a sub brand that has a playful spirit yet is appropriate in the strictest workplace.
Barker Black imagines how the Lancers would dress themselves in today’s world and their youthful, sleek designs have a touch of arrogance that conjures up images of the regiment’s black and silver dress regalia. These and the ‘Death or Glory’ sentiment is the cornerstone of these luxurious shoes, made from the finest Italian and French Calf.
To ensure their longevity and quality, each shoe is left on the last for fifteen to thirty days – during this time the shoes are placed in a wire frame (affectionately referred to as the ‘cage’) and suspended from the rafters above the factory. This extensive time on the last allows the shoe to retain its beautiful shape. All Barker Black shoes are finished by hand, and on select shoes the skull and crossbone logo is painstakingly tacked into the sole by hand.
In the last few years, Barker Black has quickly gained the attention of the fashion media, appearing in the premiere issue of Men’s Vogue in September 2005. Subsequent coverage in men’s fashion magazines such as Details, Esquire, and GQ followed. In 2007, Barker Black was chosen by GQ magazine as one of the best new designers in America.
The new Barker Black Spring 2011 collection includes washed linen or woven silk wool slippers embroidered with skull and crossbone motif or the brand’s signature motto “Death” and “Glory”. These come in black, natural, navy, charcoal, purple and retail at $495 (US).
Barker Shoes can be found in specialist boutiques in England (www.joseph.co.uk), France, Italy and Spain as well as in Korea, Japan. In the US, the range is sold in its own boutiques in New York City and Los Angeles, as well in luxury department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and Nieman Marcus.
When a brand understands the power of custom, respects those who have fought for our freedom and gone ahead of us, we (MenStylePower) take notice, because we can only claim greatness when we acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of giants.
Barker Black is definitely a brand for modern men seeking to identify themselves with an epic story of courage and honour that’s bigger than themselves. www.barkerblack.com.