The money in New York has been spreading south for a while. Soho is now dominated by designer brands. I think I counted at least five Ralph Lauren stores downtown. Below Houston the interesting shops, the boutiques, have been pushed further east and west. And it’s on the east and west sides that you will find two of those shops, run by two brothers: Derrick and Kirk Miller.
Both used to run Barker Black. Kirk now has his own tailor’s shop, Miller’s Oath. More about him another time. For the moment, we’re going to talk about Barker Black.
Derrick’s shoes are made for him by Barker in Northampton, but to a rather higher quality than the standard line found most often in the UK. That quality is evident in points of construction, but also in the small design details that Derrick adds to every pair. The crossed holding stitch at the bottom of the laces. A shortened toe cap. The skull and crossbones nailed into the sole. Derrick talks fondly of visiting the shoemaking museum in Northampton and reading about the competitions for the best nail decoration on a sole. There was more of it about when men wore hobnail hoots.
I like Derrick’s lasts. I also like the fact that the shop is so hard to find – I ended up asking in a barber’s whether they knew where Barker Black was. Turned out it was next door.
Perhaps that isn’t surprising; the outside of the shop is black, after all, just like the inside. Not the easiest place to photograph. Plus it’s so small there are only three real angles: shoes on the wall; shoes in the window; accessories on the table. Hopefully these three shots do justice to them all.
All the accessories bear variations on the skull and crossbones insignia, naturally. Apparently the Japanese love those details, and I can understand why.
I don’t own any Barker Black shoes. I have no personal recommendation to make. But I like Derrick, I like his style and I like his shop.