The Complete Guide to Buying Barbour: Britain's Iconic Outerwear Brand
With over 120 years of heritage, Barbour is one of Britain's most iconic outerwear brands. Loved across the world for its waxed cotton jackets and quilted countrywear, Barbour is intrinsically linked to the great British outdoors. Originally designing outerwear for sailors, motorcyclists, and country pursuits, the brand has become synonymous with both fashion and function. Offering weatherproof, durable clothing that can withstand the elements whilst looking effortlessly stylish. From its humble beginnings in South Shields to outfitting members of the royal family, Barbour has cemented itself as a leading British lifestyle brand. Respecting its roots whilst evolving with the times. This comprehensive guide will take you through Barbour's rich history and explain everything you need to know before buying Barbour clothing or accessories.
A Brief History of Barbour
It all began in 1894 when founder John Barbour opened up a market stall in South Shields, England. He spotted a gap in the market for durable outerwear that could protect sailors and fishermen from the harsh British weather. Using his skills as an apprentice draper, John designed the first ever waxed cotton jackets. The 2oz Sylkoil wax gave the jackets an element of weatherproofness whilst allowing the cotton to breathe. These early sailor designs are what gave birth to the now iconic Barbour International jacket. As the brand's reputation grew, Barbour began to design outerwear for motorcyclists, gamekeepers, and those in country pursuits. In 1908, Barbour received its first royal warrant from Edward VII to produce waterproof clothing. And later in the 1930s, it would receive warrants from both George V and George VI. Royalty was now wearing the same protective country attire as farmers and landowners. Barbour opened its first retail store in South Shields in 1912, later expanding with London stores and worldwide distribution throughout the 20th century. Whilst still faithfully manufacturing most clothing at its South Shields factory. Now in its 5th generation of family ownership, Barbour produces clothing and accessories for men, women and children. Staying true to its roots with expansive outerwear collections including quilted, wool, shooting and travel lines.
Iconic Barbour Outerwear Styles
Waxed Cotton Jackets
The waxed cotton jacket remains Barbour's signature style. Based on early sailor and motorcycle designs, these jackets are crafted from 6oz Sylkoil wax cotton. This is cotton that's been treated in natural wax, making it weather resistant whilst still breathable. The wax also makes the jackets naturally water repellent, heavy duty and durable. The wax will wear away over time but can be reapplied to restore water resistance.
Choose from two main fits:
- Classic Fit - These have a generous regular fit to allow room for layering. Featuring a corduroy collar and tartan lining. Ideal for country pursuits. E.g. the Bedale or Beaufort.
- Contemporary / Slim Fit - A more tailored, modern fit. Usually with a classic collar and print lining. Perfect for urban wear. E.g. the Ashby or Salcombe.
Look out for different collar shapes, pocket placements and lengths such as the equestrian focused Whitby or squarer Gamefair jacket.
Quilted jackets offer lightweight insulation and warmth. The diamond stitch pattern with padding allows air to circulate and heat to be retained making them perfect for winter walks or layering. Barbour uses a lightweight polyester wadding to create the quilting effect. This makes them less bulky than traditional down jackets. The Sylkoil wax outer coating provides water resistance and durability. While corduroy collar detailing and tartan linings bring heritage Barbour styling. Popular quilted jacket choices include:
- Beadnell - The brand's slimmest quilted style. Cut closer to the body for a refined silhouette.
- Powell - A contemporary quilted jacket with a slim fit, ribbed storm cuffs and neat lower pockets.
- Liddesdale - A classic quilt jacket with cord collar and diamond lining. Slightly boxier shape. Available in various lengths.
Wax Jacket Collaborations
Barbour frequently collaborates with other luxury British brands to rework its classic wax jackets. These limited editions put a unique spin on Barbour's outerwear offering different materials, patterns and colours.
Recent collaborations to look out for include:
- Land Rover - Bringing together two iconic British heritage brands. Features include fleece zips, leather trims and embossed hardware.
- Norton & Sons - Using Norton's signature herringbone tweed as a outer fabric. Contrasting corduroy collar and elbow patches.
- Toki KTM - Bold motorcycle inspired jackets with motorcycle jersey sleeves, distressed leather and unique artwork linings.
Barbour Lifestyle Collection
As well as its renowned outerwear, Barbour also produces a full lifestyle collection. Ranging from country-inspired knitwear to accessories and footwear, the collection allows you to achieve a complete Barbour look.
Knitwear & Shirts
Barbour's knitwear includes classic county styles such as:
- Cable Jumpers - Heavyweight knitted jumpers, often in neutral tones or heritage tartans. Offering warmth and a traditional aesthetic.
- Fair Isle / Nordic Knits - Detailed patterns and motifs inspired by traditional Fair Isle techniques. Made from lambswool or merino wool.
- Wax Cotton Shirts - Casual shirts made from the signature Sylkoil wax cotton. Sometimes with cord collars and tartan trim detailing.
- Oxford Shirts - Crisp cotton Oxford button-down shirts. Smart enough to wear into town yet comfortable for country pursuits.
- Flannel Shirts - Soft handle shirts in checked flannel fabrics. Ideal for layering over T-shirts or under knitwear.
- Polo Shirts - Cotton mesh polo shirts that can be dressed up or down. Often featuring embroidery.
Gilets & Bodywarmers
Lightweight insulated gilets and bodywarmers are ideal for layering over knitwear or under jackets. Choose from:
- Quilted Gilets - Padded with diamond baffle quilting. Offering core warmth without the bulk of sleeves. Some feature fleece or cord collars for extra comfort.
- Wax Gilets - Made from Barbour's signature waxed cotton for weather protection. A versatile country classic.
- Shooting Waistcoats - Tailored 5oz wax waistcoats designed for country pursuits. May include cartridge pockets and shoulder patches.
Barbour's stylish accessories allow you to incorporate the brand into any outfit.
- Hats & Gloves - Waxed cotton hats, beanies and gloves lined with tartan fabric. Essential for winter walks in the countryside.
- Socks - Cushioned country socks made from lambswool, cotton and linen. Often featuring Fair Isle patterns.
- Bags - Waxed canvas satchels, messenger bags, and laptop sleeves. As well as leather holdalls and briefcases for city professionals.
- Scarves - Lightweight lambswool scarves in signature tartans. Plus, cashmere and merino options for luxury cold weather comfort.
- Belts - Bridle leather belts with vintage brass buckles. Available in black or brown.
- Dog Accessories - Extend the Barbour lifestyle to your four-legged friend. With everything from waxed dog coats to collars, leads and bandanas.
How to Style Barbour Outerwear
The relaxed aesthetic of Barbour clothing lends itself perfectly to smart casual dress codes. Women can layer Barbour wax jackets over dresses, coats over jeans or gilets atop knitwear. Knee high riding boots and leather accessories like cross body bags also complement the country styling. Men may opt for wax jackets with chinos or jeans and simple shirts or knits underneath. Brogue boots and flat caps can finish the countryside look. Younger generations can also give a fresh streetwear vibe to Barbour apparel. Oversized jackets and gilets lend themselves to athleisure and urban wardrobes. Barbour pieces tend to have an ageless quality about them. Wax jackets soften and develop character over time so they make great investment and vintage purchases too.
Caring for your Barbour
To increase the longevity of your Barbour garments, follow these care tips:
- Store wax jackets on coat hangers to retain the shape. Avoid folding.
- Apply Barbour wax dressing every 1-2 years to nourish the outer cotton and maintain weatherproofing.
- Use Barbour waxed cotton cleaners for spot cleaning. Then re-wax any cleaned areas.
- For quilted jackets, remove the inner lining and machine wash separately. Tumble dry.
- Take jackets to our in-house Repair & Care service here at Cotswold Outdoor, or visit your local Barbour store where in-house restoration experts can repair, re-wax and replace parts like hoods or cords. Ensuring you get the most wear out of your purchase.
Barbour Gift Ideas
With its timeless styling and reputation for quality, Barbour makes an ideal gift for many occasions:
- Christmas - Few gifts embody the British festive spirit like a classic quilted or wax jacket. Wrap up warm for winter walks together.
- Birthdays - Milestone birthdays deserve a jacket that will last a lifetime. Choose their favourite style and colourway.
- Anniversaries - Mark your years together with a matching his and hers wax jacket set.
- Graduations - Celebrate finishing education with a Barbour piece they can take forward into their career.
- Housewarming – Country inspired accessories like blankets, dog bowls or wax satchels make great house gifts.
- Retirement - For retirees embracing the quiet country lifestyle, a Barbour jacket is an ideal present.
Make it More Personalised
- Include a gift receipt - So they can exchange for a different size or colour if needed.
- Present their first re-wax kit - Let them experience reproofing the wax at home themselves.
- Give them a place to store it - Such as a jacket storage bag or wooden hanger.
Children's Barbour Clothing
Barbour's heritage styling transcends the generations, so even the little ones can enjoy the brand's iconic outerwear. The children's collection takes Barbour's most popular adult styles and tailors them for kids. So they can match mum or dad's coat from an early age.
Look out for:
- Waxed Jackets - Mini versions of the classic Bedale and Beaufort jackets. With bright tartan linings that will appeal to kids.
- Quilted Jackets - Quilts including the Liddesdale and Powell designs now come in children's sizes. Great for keeping them cosy.
- Gilets - Lightweight wax or quilt bodywarmers are easy to layer over hoodies and knitwear.
- Accessories - Hats, gloves and bags allow them to coordinate head to toe. Wellies and dog coats are adorable additions too!
There are styles to suit all ages from babies to teens. Help them start their own Barbour story.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Barbour made?
Although now a global brand, Barbour still hand assembles most of its wax jackets at its original factory in Simonside, South Shields. Ensuring authenticity and quality. The quilted jackets and other clothing may be produced elsewhere.
Why is Barbour so expensive?
The wax jackets in particular require a complex construction process. The Sylkoil wax cotton is specially sourced from Barbour's own facility in the Lancashire mill town of Nelson. The natural waxing techniques take skill and add labour costs. So although an investment, you are paying for exceptional quality and manufacturing expertise. The brand's reputation and heritage adds value too. Alongside its royal warrants and long lasting nature.
How should a Barbour jacket fit?
Waxed jackets are designed for layering, so often fit larger. But quilted options can be more tailored. It's worth trying in store. Ideally a wax jacket should allow enough room to layer a thick jumper or jacket underneath. But not excessively large. Measure your chest size and choose a size accordingly. Some people prefer to size down for a more fitted shape. But too tight will restrict movement. Female models are often more shaped through the waist.
Is Barbour true to size?
Barbour don't have bespoke sizing so tend to follow standard clothing measurements. But outerwear may come up more generous to allow for layers. Refer to the specific size chart for accurate measurements of each jacket. Or try on in person if possible. You may need to go down a size for a neater contemporary fit.
How long do Barbour jackets last?
The sustainability and longevity of Barbour outerwear is excellent. With proper care and reproofing, a good quality Barbour wax jacket can last over 10 years of regular use. Some even get passed down generations. Quilted jackets may eventually lose their insulation effectiveness after prolonged heavy use. But the outer fabric remains hardy. Look after your Barbour and it will become a wardrobe staple to treasure.
From its humble beginnings kitting out sailors and country folk, to becoming a fashion staple donned by royalty, Barbour's status epitomises quality. When you choose Barbour, you're buying into more than just a practical jacket. You're investing in a storied brand that evokes the great British outdoors, offering wax jackets with an inimitable character that improves with age, and quilted comfort to shield you from unpredictable weather. Barbour's belief in good value, durability, and responsible production means their coats deliver on substance, going the distance through changing trends and seasons; the ultimate wardrobe companion for country or city life.