It’s reasonable to say that Great Britain have had a bit of a head start on us Kiwi’s. As the architects who drew the blueprints which lay the foundations for our modern way of life, the Brits certainly have their fair share of bragging rights. From their language, to their law and parliamentary systems, the Industrial Revolution and the Full Breakfast, our nation is built on practices invented by the English.
For a young nation, New Zealand has developed a mastery of taking something steeped in heritage and tradition
and making it our own. Since the inception of Rugby in England mid-19th century, the sport has become a major part of our national identity and has a unique ability to unify the people of our country. With such a diverse range of cultures, it is rare to find something synonymous within us all that we really give a damn about. And the reason?
Because we are good at it. No, not just good. The All Blacks are the most dominant team in the history of the world, period. This isn’t an opinion, this is a fact. And much like the nation has rugby to hold close to their hearts,
Barkers has taken the art of tailoring from the gentleman of Savile Row in London, and made it our own.
In central London there’s a street where men have travelled from far and wide to reach for over 200 years, all with
a common purpose in mind – to acquire personalised tailored-wear. The name and legend of Savile Row
is interchangeable with bespoke suiting of the highest quality, with a reputation built around a mastery of detail and design. Tailors started doing business in the Mayfair area in the late 18th century, with Henry Poole
AKA the “Founder of Savile Row”opening the first tailoring premises on the street in 1846. It has since become
“the golden mile of tailoring”.
In comparison, Barkers is still a young establishment, however our expertise in tailored wear has placed us at the cutting edge of high end New Zealand menswear, and now we are advancing our skills to a higher elevation of craftsmanship. Barkers new Made to Measure service offers the next level of personalisation and detail to our suiting range, allowing one who seeks a point of difference to fully customise his two or three piece suit. Fabrics, lapels, buttons and linings, your next Barkers suit will have you written all over it, literally, with your name embroidered on the internal chest pocket if you so wish. A shortening of the measuring tapes for the gentlemen on Savile Row is afoot, as once again, the Kiwi’s are making their innovation our mastery.
“You have to understand, New Zealand is a very young country and rugby has put this country on the map. This country earned respect from the rest of the world for three things: what we did in two world wars, and to a lesser extent what we’ve done on the rugby field. So over time rugby has become a major part of our national identity.
And the current All Blacks team, the All Blacks teams of recent years, have always tried to add to that legacy,
that history.”(1) A statement that could have only come from the Godfather of the game,
Sir Graham Henry explains the place of New Zealand rugby in context for an English journalist
during a 2013 interview.
The game’s reputed origin comes from an incident during a game of English school football at Rugby School in 1823, when William Webb Ellis is said to have picked up the ball and run with it. While it seems that the English like to play by their own rules at times, nobody present at that game of “football” could have imagined that
this athletic faux pas would spark a wave of innovation within the sporting world. Two decades later at Rugby School, the production of the first written rules of Rugby Football manifested a significant development
within the game – it could now be officially contested.
The turn of the century saw rugby catapult into the New Zealand public conscious with the 1905 tour of Europe
and the USA, with the All Blacks “Originals”. A legend was born; of the 35 games played, New Zealand won 34.
They scored a total of 976 points, and conceded 59. As the respected Kiwi historian Jock Phillips puts it “The context of this sudden popularity in rugby was that New Zealand had always had a certain insecurity about its place in the world. We’ve always got a certain anxiety that we are falling off the edge, that we don’t really count.
The tour gave New Zealanders a sense that they had a role to play in the empire." (2) From that 1905 tour
up until now, the All Blacks have become the most successful team in all of sporting history.
This is why it is now called “Our Game”.
The All Blacks and Barkers
Over the last six years, Barkers have had the pleasure of being the official formalwear supplier to the All Blacks.
During May of each year, our tailoring team meet with the All Blacks and management to dress, measure, pin and tailor all of their Barkers formalwear. The garments have been specifically customised for the team, and include the Black Suit, the All Black's No. 1 and No. 2 shirts, the All Black's Black Coat, the Black Merino Vee Neck, as well as custom made ties, tie pins and pocket squares featuring personalised embroidery. The size range of the players in the All Blacks is massive, the smallest being around a 96cm chest all the way up to a 120cm chest. Excluding a few key accessories, the entire All Blacks Range is available to any of our customers, many of them already obtaining their own pieces of our collaborative history.
Throughout the year, we organise events such as our All Blacks Power Breakfast, where we invite high school rugby players and coaching staff to join us for a special meal with a couple of the players. This year Beauden Barrett, Joe Moody and Sonny Bill Williams were amongst those who attended, interacted with the students and talked rugby inspiration with Tony Veitch. These breakfasts allow us to give back to grassroots rugby by providing a close up experience with world-class players.
When two iconic New Zealand brands collaborate in their areas of craft, something great is born. Our heads are held high when we see the team in black, standing tall and proud in their tailored formalwear, ready to take on the world. There are parallels to be drawn between us, with our crafts both originating from the Brits but being mastered here in New Zealand. Their game is our game.