I first got to know of Barbanera shoes from a referral from my friend Justin Fitzpatrick. Justin is one of, if not the, best known and most knowledgeable writer in the world of men’s shoes. He’s also started his own range (J. Fitzpatrick) a few years ago. Given that he rates Barbanera so highly, I was keen to get to know the brothers to understand what makes the brand unique.
Since getting know know the brothers, Barbanera has quickly become one of my favourite shoemakers, in part due to the quality and value for money (prices start in the mid 400Euro range and end in the high 500Euro range), but also because of how cool the brothers are, who are behind the brand.
Started in 2012 and based in Milan, Barbanera is the shared vision of 2 pairs of brothers; Sergio and Sebastiano Guardi, and Alessandro and Filippo Pagliacci. They grew up being taught to appreciate craftsmanship, from their parents, and when Sebastiano and Filippo had the idea to start something together, Barbanera was born.
Their backgrounds are mixed, with Sergio coming from a rock-and-roll band, Sebastiano from marketing and Filippo has a history as an entrepreneur.
It’s a brand which has effectively had all the bullshit stripped away and is just a genuine reflection of the four brothers. They’re not trying to be something they’re not or to present a polished image to wealthy businessmen, which is common when manufacturing high end shoes. It’s effectively a case of taking the craftsmanship found in quality european shoemaking, but mixing it with a younger, more edgy aesthetic and philosophy. Moreover, it’s genuine, not forced and that becomes evident very quickly. Part pirate, part rock and roll, part gentleman. It’s an interesting mix, which has resulted in a pretty identifiable look, influenced by Italian, British and American culture.
Some of the combinations are different to what I would wear (like the jack-boots or tweedy/denim/calf hybrids) but most of the range balances classic design with some modern style elements. The “Hemmingway” loafer is one of the most perfectly designed loafers I’ve seen and their “Brummel” cap-toe adelaide’s are equally well designed.
I picked up my first pair of Barbanera’s only recently (Hemmingway in suede with calf tassels) and in a short space of time they’ve become my favourite pair of loafers. I’ll post a separate article later on, on how they’ve worn in, once I’ve given them a proper beating.
Manufactured in Tuscany, the quality is high. The construction is simple, but well executed. Most shoes are made with a goodyear welt, with the exception of a few being made with a blake sole, due to that method making for a more sleek, low profile shoe. The goodyear welt will always win out on longevity. They also offer a made-to-order range, if you had a specific leather in mind.
In the future, the goal is to move to a more broad offering (jackets, belts, hats etc), but that’s probably some time off yet.
In the end, you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer group of guys, who have had the conviction and guts to create something which is thoroughly honest. They make what they like, to a very high standard and have fun doing it. That’s something worth supporting.
Footnote: If you can’t get to a store directly (they’re now stocked throughout Europe, the US and Asia) but you own any of the following brands, you can take your size off the following comparison:
I’m a 7 1/2 in Barbanera lace up’s and sizDe down half a size for loafers. The following measurements are based on lace up sizes, most makers recommend sizing down a half size for loafers:
John Lobb: 7
J. Fitzpatrick: 7.5
Gaziano and Girling: 8
St Crispins: 8 (I think)