Barbanera means ‘Blackbeard’, and like that famously lawless buccaneer, this up-and-coming Italian shoemaking brand is breaking all the rules. Or at the very least, defying all the stereotypes.
Founded in 2011, Barbanera certainly can’t claim to be Italy’s oldest, most tradition-rich men’s shoemaker. The trio behind the company — brothers Sergio and Sebastiano Guardi and Alessandro Pagliacci — are not the heirs to a line of cordwaining maestros stretching back to the days of the Medicis. They’re also not your quintessential wizened artisans: gnarled, wrinkled, smoky, croaky-voiced grandpapa types, hands calloused by decades of leatherwork.
Quite the opposite — they’re handsome, charming, young men, with professional backgrounds in luxury marketing, entrepreneurialism, and in Sergio’s case, a rock band. They’re modern, youthful, raffishly groomed, annoyingly good-looking. A bit rebellious. The Rake finds all that a plus.
Sergio concurs. “Being younger helps us in recognising, maybe, that times are changing,” he says. “The stylish man today is different from the one of 20 years ago. Style is changing, the silhouette has changed,” and that affects the sort of shoes that will complement a man’s look.
“When we started we didn’t have real experience in shoemaking and the fashion business — we were passionate connoisseurs, without a 100-year family tradition in shoemaking,” Sergio explains. “So we decided to turn a point of weakness into a point of strength. How? With creative freedom. Since I’m a ‘new’ shoemaker, I’m free to design and make the most classic Goodyear-welted tassel loafer and, at the same time, make a badass rock’n’roll boot, with the same high quality but with a different vibe, and not being afraid that ‘historic’ customers will complain.”