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Blog/Brand Bible/Barker Product Technology
Over the last few years British hand-made shoes have become the most in demand style of shoes around. Combining the finest leathers with the most intricate processes, it’s no surprise why British shoes have become so successful.
Few brands have the same unmitigated reputation for prestige and heritage as Barker and they have been a great English tradition since they were founded way back in 1880. The Northamptonshire based shoemaker was founded by Arthur Barker, a skilled craftsman. Arthur Barker was famed for his stylish and innovative designs and his waterproof peg sole boots were highly sought after. The pegs would swell when wet, making the soles waterproof. Following this great success, Barker invested in factory premises and secured contracts to supply the British army with boots during the First World War.
Through the inter-war years Barker continued their rise to the top as Arthur’s three sons joined the family business, taking the brand into new markets and territories. In 1950, Barker took a massive step forward as the brand established a separate sales company to sell direct to retailers. Since then, Barker has gone from strength to strength and now have one of the finest footwear factories in Europe, occupying a 4.5 acre landscaped site at the centre of the village of Earls Barton.
Barker are famed for their intricate and complex manufacturing processes. After a careful screening process each shoe is handmade from only the finest leathers and they then go through a number of different steps before getting to the final shoe.
The designer begins the process by creating styles and designs, which are then handed to the the production team. Some of the finest leathers arrive from around the world, including Italy, Germany and India, and are then carefully inspected for any irregularities. The uppers are cut out, stitched and glued to the inners, and the shoe starts to take shape. To create Barker’s classic brogues, a royal perforating machine is used to decorate the shoe with punch holes.
The outsoles are individually press cut from leather, and a water base cement is applied. Next, the outsole is heat moulded to give a natural shape. An upstanding rim is hand machined to each insole in preparation for the lasting of the upper.
The last is measured out and a correct sized and shaped last is made. Next, the uppers are made softer and malleable by a steel mulling cabinet. The front of the shoe is steamed to soften the toe and in a process called pull toe lasting, the upper is machine pulled and secured over the front part of the last. The shoes are then examined and any minor blemishes are removed. After this any remaining staples are removed and the upper and lining are trimmed. A Goodyear welt is sewn in to connect the welt, upper and lining to the wall of the insole.
Towards the end of the process, cement is applied to the outsole and is left to dry. Once dry, pressure is applied to the shoe for stability. The uppers are burnished on rollers, which are coated with a special wax to stop the leather from burning. Finally, the welt and outsole are edge trimmed and the heel is nailed to the outsole, which is then scoured, smoothed and finally dyed.
For finishing touches wax is applied in 4 separate stages both by hand and machine, and is sealed under a hot iron for protection. Once the shoes are finally made, cream is applied to the leathers, the shoes are cleaned and outsole is stamped. A final inspection is carried out by an experienced eye, and the shoes are only ready for packaging if they live up to the Barker level of craftsmanship.
Goodyear Welting is one of the greatest innovations in the footwear industry. Created by Charles Goodyear Jr in 1869, a Goodyear welt is a strip of leather, rubber, or plastic that runs along the perimeter of a shoe outsole. The process is hugely time consuming but is considered the best method of constructing a shoe. Goodyear Welting is completed in 3 steps;
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