Maybe it’s my summer vacation plans to immerse myself in the Georgian Era, but my Anglophilia is rampant. Jammie Dodgers stock the cookie tin, MAC’s “Cockney Red” lipstick is destined for my Liberty of London cosmetic bag, and a sleek new wardrobe acquisition transports me to the English countryside every time I wear it. Let me tell you why my Barbour jacket has won my admiration.
Established in 1894, J. Barbour & Sons is a fifth-generation British family business producing durable, practical and well-made clothing that keeps you warm and looking stylish. Besides making jackets and coats, Barbour also offers trousers, shirts, socks, knitwear and accessories. Royal warrants have been awarded to Barbour by Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.
I joined the Barbour bandwagon last Christmas, when we pooled our resources and bought Nails a Barbour Bedale jacket, a matching hood, and a Polarquilt zip-in liner that can also be worn alone as an outerwear vest. With each Bedale feature I discovered, I realized how Barbour has developed an informed solution for outerwear needs. As I enthusiastically described these attributes to others, I started sounding a lot like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’s Milky J, the exuberant New York Yankees fan who shares his love of Hubble telescope images in his “Hubble Gotchu!” sketches.
Barbour’s seamed construction and thornproof waxed cotton finish repel water. Large pockets keep hands warm. Many of Barbour’s studded collars are designed for attaching an optional matching waxed cotton hood with an adjustable drawcord and toggles to keep out wind and rain. Two studded side vents in the back of this versatile equestrian-style jacket make it perfect for hunting, riding or shooting. And just like the Garanimals of my childhood, the jacket is lined in Barbour tartan, so match up the plaid in the jacket with the plaid of its corresponding accessories and everything coordinates perfectly.
To become more knowledgeable about Barbour, I read its website, blog and tweets. Barbour jackets are crafted to last a lifetime and often stay in families to be passed down and worn for decades, so they can be returned to Barbour at any time for worn areas to be repaired and re-waxed for waterproofing. On Barbour’s YouTube channel, I watched programs about how Barbour makes 3,000 jackets a week at its factory in South Shields, a coastal town in Tyne and Wear (County Durham), England. I heard what other Barbour owners have to say about their jackets, watched fashion videos of seasonal collections, and learned about the repair services that Barbour offers. In the “Barbour: A Jacket for Life” video, Barbour employees shared that when they’ve checked the pockets of the 14,000 jackets that come back each year for reconditioning, they’ve found a set of keys to St. James’s Palace in London, love letters, a sheep tail, fox teeth, and ₤120 in cash.
Searching the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s online databases mined more information about Barbour. For example, in “Barbour: From shipyards to catwalks, the British clothing brand has successfully weathered fashion’s storms,” from the April 20, 2010 issue of Marketing, I learned that Barbour introduced a range of motorcycle attire in the 1930s. Armed forces in World War I and World War II wore Barbour; its Ursula suit, named after a U-class submarine, was standard issue during World War II. Barbour sponsors the Household Cavalry polo team and offers a collection of shooting attire designed by Lord James Percy, considered one of the outstanding and most well-dressed shots of his generation. To appeal to fashionable, young urban shoppers, Barbour has followed the trends of using pop-up shops and social media to promote its line of smart casual wear.
I also discovered some star-studded reasons why this quintessential element of British fashion is the perfect attire for country-minded ladies and gentlemen.
The Barbour Beaufort Wax Jacket, worn by Helen Mirren in The Queen, was part of the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The Barbour Steve McQueen collection is a tribute to one of the most famous wearers of the Barbour jacket. McQueen started wearing Barbour International motorcycle suits at the Six Day Trials circuit in 1964. You can spot the Beacon Heritage Sports Jacket and the Dunmoor Gilet from the Barbour Sporting Collection in the James Bond movie, Skyfall.
Barbour jackets make for good conversation-starters. While having tea at the Morgan Library’s café in New York last December, I spotted a jacket with Barbour plaid lining hanging over a chair at another table and asked its owner how he liked his purchase. He pointed out another Barbour feature – the lined, extra-deep pockets and deep, long zippered compartments in the back of the jacket are perfect for transporting small game from the field to the house.
Following the trend for prints in Autumn/Winter 2012, Barbour introduced some of the iconic, timeless 19th-century William Morris floral prints as linings for some of its jackets for ladies, and as the fabric for matching handbags and totes. What could be more perfect for this William Morris disciple than to wear a “Marigold”-lined Morris Utility Jacket?