Built on a rich tradition of family and tradition, Barbour is among the most highly regarded lifestyle brands in the world. Founded in 1894 in South Shields, England, by John Barbour, the company specializes in exceptional clothes, shoes, and accessories.
Perhaps its greatest association is with waxed cotton, the durable material known for its ability to resist water. Since his company’s inception, Barbour recognized the need for high-performance clothing that would provide fishermen, sailors, and shipyard workers with the comfort they demanded while on the job. The original collection, the Beacon Brand, was constructed of Oilskin, a substantial fabric deemed weatherproof thanks to coats of wax and oil.
While effective, the material was considerably heavier than most seafarers could comfortably withstand. Barbour realized that cotton could take the place and perform the role just as efficiently, and so his company began creating weatherproof pieces made with the fabric in the middle of the 19th century.
It remained this way at least through the 1930s, when fabric producers realized that there was room for improvement. The original materials were prone to developing a yellowish tinge with time, and would often take on an uncomfortably stiff texture when exposed to colder conditions. The newest iteration of the fabric was permeated with paraffin, which contributed to a softer material that was just as effective at resisting moisture.
Designed specifically for outerwear, the cotton received the VIP treatment through the entire production process. It was first woven by Webster in Scotland, then transported to Lancashire for color dyeing, treated in London with cupro-ammonia to soften the textured fabric, returned for waxing in Lancashire, then returned to Scotland for eventual sale.
Waxed cotton quickly became prevalent beyond the sea. People in various industries, including farming, game-keeping, sport, and cycling realized that the distinctive material could serve them well in their own respective worlds. It was a key reason why Barbour designed the International Suit specifically for riders who required something that minimized resistance while keeping them warm and dry. It was so popular that Steve McQueen and his teammates wore it during the International Six Days Trial in 1964. Through 1977, almost all English International teams wore Barbour suits exclusively.
The fabric’s popularity remained steadfast through the decades, enough so that Barbour improved upon its texture and finesse to meet the growing and changing needs of consumers. In 2005, for example, the company eliminated the cupro-ammonia treatment from the production process. Today, the company’s waxed jacket lineup is extensive, with styles ranging from casual to sporty to tailored.
To some degree, Barbour has the late Princess Diana to thank for its widespread appeal in the contemporary world. She was among an elite group of “Sloane Rangers,” or upper-class women from the United Kingdom who conveyed simultaneous posh sophistication and nonchalant style at once. Their uniform of choice was often a waxed jacket and tweed. The effect was polished, yet unaffected — and it caught on quickly, as both young and old adopted Barbour jackets as their own uniform of choice.
To some degree, Barbour has the late Princess Diana to thank for its widespread appeal in the contemporary world.
Years later, songstress Lily Allen hit the stage at notoriously wet and muddy Glastonbury with a Barbour jacket thrown over her dress. Before long, the likes of Alexa Chung, Billie Piper, Ellie Goulding, and Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys made the jacket part of their public repertoire, introducing young audiences to the style and showcasing the many ways in which the once merely functional jacket could be worn. Suddenly it was far more than a utilitarian piece — it was a means to make a bold fashion statement.
It marked a turn for the brand largely associated with the stiff upper lip. Heritage and tradition notwithstanding, there was a sense that Barbour was suddenly not only storied, but downright hip and cool. The brand doesn’t take this new reputation lightly. While forever tied to its inspirational roots and rich background, they recognize that there’s no way to avoid the power of celebrity. It’s contributed to Barbour’s growth in a way, as the brand has emerged a key player in other areas, including accessories like slippers, belts, and bags, along with footwear.
Attention to Detail
It’s not only its waxed jacket collection that sets Barbour apart. The company is a reflection of its roots, deeply entrenched in its impressive 19th century history in coastal England. The forward-thinking approach to design at the time remains just as much a part of its ethos today as ever before. The designers are committed to using only the highest quality materials, with specific attention to workmanship and use of finely milled textiles.
From the immaculate placement of pockets to the carefully allocated buttons to the treated fabrics, each piece is meticulously designed.
This appreciation for style and an unwillingness to settle for anything less is evident in each and every piece they produce. From the immaculate placement of pockets to the carefully allocated buttons to the treated fabrics, each piece is meticulously designed. It’s precisely why Barbour remains the gold standard for rugged, unwavering, and relentless outerwear known for its ability to withstand the elements.
Knowing where to begin where such luxury and timeless style is concerned may be difficult. To be sure, Barbour pieces are well worth the investment. From traditional waxed cotton jackets that capture a sense of true English sensibility coupled with an undeniable hint of style to shirts, jumpers, and trousers appropriate for everyday wear, Barbour has every base covered. One could easily build an entire wardrobe consisting solely of the brand’s very best pieces, yet it’s just as easy to snag a single piece of outerwear if you want to experience what makes the Barbour name so reliable. Here are a few areas to focus your attention.
Classic Beaufort® Wax Jacket
The midweight Classic Beaufort® Wax Jacket lives up to its name in every way. It’s a tough, sturdy, and reliable piece of outerwear that’s perfect to wear whether you’re going on an outdoor adventure or just headed to the office. Throw it on over everything from your ever-trusty polo shirt to your crisp suit and tie.
It’s that versatile, but its true appeal lies in its intuitive design. The lining is made with pure cotton bearing the famed Barbour tartan pattern. You can add a quilted liner when you need a layer of additional warmth, while the corduroy collar enhances warmth and allows you to attach a hood when the weather calls for it. Plentiful pocket space allows you to keep your essentials within easy reach at all times.
Gamlan Half Zip Sweater
Following in the footsteps of its own rich heritage, the brand later introduced a number of other pieces to its lineup. Among them is the luxurious Gamlan Half Zip Sweater, which evokes a sense of time-honored style and classic appeal. Worn with everything from khaki pants to trousers to dark jeans, it’s the perfect finishing touch for nearly any outfit.
It’s made with cozy merino wool treated with Teflon, which allows it to dry quickly and even resist stains. As durable as the brand’s waxed jackets, Gemlan is at once dependable and durable. It features a ribbed collar, cuffs, and hem to ensure an exceptional fit, and is even lined with waterproof material to ensure your comfort no matter how wet it gets on a cold fall or winter day.
Rosemount Polar Fleece Gilet
What to wear when it’s cool but not quite cold enough to warrant a substantial coat? The Rosemount Polar Fleece Gilet introduces a new element to your wardrobe. You can layer it beneath said coat or a jacket if it’s especially brisk out there, but it wears just as well on those breezy days where all that you really need to do is lock in some body heat to stay as comfortable as possible.
Its integrity lies in its polar fleece lining; it’s as plush and touchable as it sounds, pressing gently against the body while providing you with reliable warmth when it’s needed most. The vest is elevated with functional details, including a stud fastening and spacious lower pockets that provide just enough room for your everyday essentials.
Crest Sports Cap
Proof that even the sportiest styles can be sophisticated when the right designer is at the helm, the Nelson Sports Cap exudes charm at a glance. It’s crisp and clean, constructed with a corduroy fabric that lends the piece immediate softness. Tartan trims the interior crown, while a demure Barbour logo accents the front.
Beautifully conceived, this stylish accessory looks right at home with your casual best: think well-constructed polo shirts, pressed khaki pants, and slip-on shoes that you might wear while hobnobbing with friends on the boat or relaxing on the deck with family. Count on it to shield your eyes and skin from the sun while adding a touch of surprising sophistication to your off-duty ensembles.
Few pairs of practical at-home footwear actually stand the test of time, but Monty Slippers intend to do just that. The classic moccasin design alone lends it enduring appeal — it’s perfect to wear with everything from your reliable joggers to the plush robe that serves as your uniform when you’re hunkered down for the weekend.
But it’s also the extra details, like the plush faux shearling lining and the sturdy rubber sole that keep you steady on your feet, that contribute to its longevity. The shoe is accented by a minimal Barbour badge made of metal on the upper; it’s discreet, yet it’s a standalone detail that sets the shoe apart from others in your closet.
To purchase Barbour pieces for your wardrobe, you’ll need to navigate to their website and browse the hundreds of stockists that carry the line. The products are sold throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and South America, and are available online at a variety of retailers.