If you imagined the British manufacturing industry to be dead, take a trip to the charming village of Earls Barton in Northamptonshire and you'll find a British firm that’s still putting it’s best foot forward after over 125 years. Barkers is one of the few survivors of the days when Northampshire was as synonymous with shoes as Wocestershire was with pots. As a long time fan of their shoes I jumped at an invitation from UK Sales and Marketing Manager Adrian Gell - a self acknowledged shoe obsessive – for a tour of their factory.
To be honest, other than the odd “How It’s Made” on the Discovery Channel, I have little idea of the processes and passions involved in making the stuff we all take for granted. I suppose I just imagined there is a huge machine in China where cows are herded in at one end and shoes pop out the other.
Seeing the folks at Barkers carefully selecting hides, hand cutting the numerous pieces of leather required for each shoe, and slowly assembling and crafting them into the finished article was truly a revelation to me. Many of their staff have been there for generations, with siblings close behind continuing the tradition they obviously take great pride in. I even feel proud to be wearing the shoes, not only because they look great, but (cue patriotic music) because I know I am helping a dedicated and skilled British workforce maintain a manufacturing tradition that our great nation was founded on. And besides, they’re really comfy.