The waxed cotton jacket from J. Barbour & Sons is such an iconic garment in the English countryside that some people simply use the term “barbour jacket” for all jackets of this type, regardless of manufacturer. Of course, there is something very special about the actual Barbour jacket and it is no coincidence that this brand has held strong ever since 1894 while the imitations have come and gone.
Barbour run their own dedicated retail stores, but their garments can also be found in certain upscale department stores and specialty shops worldwide.
J. Barbour and Sons has held a royal warrant to supply “waterproof and protective clothing” for Queen Elizabeth II since 1974 and is also a recognized supplier of garments for the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. Of course, there is no need to be a royal to appreciate the timeless reliability of a good waxed jacket, and the line of self-proclaimed fans is as long as it is diverse. Avid racer Steve McQueen was known to always wear Barbour when competing, and the company even developed a clothing line inspired by him. Decades later, James Bond – played by Daniel Craig – made good use of a modified Barbour jacket in the 2012 movie Skyfall, a film set largely in the Scottish countryside.
In it for the long haul
A Barbour jacket is the complete opposite of fast-fashion, and it is not unusual for these durable jackets to be handed down from one generation to the next in families with a passion for the quintessential English country life. Wear-and-tear on the jacket that requires a fix is handled by Barbour´s repair service, which provides solutions such as professional patching and reinforcements. It is also possible to hand your jacket in to have it rewaxed when necessary. In an average year, over 25,000 Barbour jackets are repaired and/or rewaxed by Barbour – many of them at the facility in Simonside, South Shields.
In 1894, the Galloway native John Barbour started a successful import of oil-cloth and founded the company J. Barbour and Sons Ltd in South Shields, England. Back then, it was headquartered at 5 market Place.
The founder´s grandson Duncan became a devoted motorcyclist and helped propel the Barbour brand by creating waxed cotton suits and jackets for motorcyclists.
True to their roots, J. Barbour and Sons Ltd is still headquarter in South Shields, and their traditional waxed cotton jackets are still manufactured in Simonside, South Shields.
Despite (or because of) the traditional connotations with country life, Barbour jackets became an urban fashion item in the 2010s, and Barbour has successfully managed to broaden their product lines in the 21st century without losing sight of the qualities that made them such a success for over a century. One example is the designs derived from the old Barbour International motorcyling ranges, with creators seeking inspiration from Barbour´s 1936 waxed cotton motorcycling suit and the 1951 Original Green motorcyling jacket to fashion contemporary interpretations of this legacy. Barbour has also collaborated with notable urban fashion brands in recent years, such as AlexaChung and WoodWood.