Tuesday 25 October 2011

Barbour jackets

When I first moved to the UK in the 1980's, Barbour jackets were worn by what I can only call Hooray Henries and their female counterparts - or anyone aspiring to a certain social strata. A muddy Barbour was a must for every naval officer or naval wife at the annual Army v Navy rugby match at Twickenham. I remember one Navy chap once telling me in amazement how he'd taken his Barbour to Finland and 'the bloody thing froze'. He thought it could withstand temperatures of minus 10 or 20 Celsius and below, such was his belief in this old waxed jacket. I'm hoping a Barbour was not the reason for the spectacular failure of Captain Scott to win the race to the South Pole, but that's another discussion.

The waxed Barbour jackets of the eighties were often very worn out-looking. The dirtier and older they were, the better. To a Finn, whose mother had valued cleanliness and smart appearance above all, it seemed strange that a jacket that looked dirty and shabby would be worn as some kind of a badge of higher birth.

How things have changed. 

Last year when I was trying to find a smart jacket to wear for dog walking, I kept seeing the new (old?) Barbour International looking very smart on the pages of MyWardrobe.com and similar online fashion stores. Then I spotted a rail of them at Liberty's, tried one on and absolutely loved it. 

Here's me wearing my International on a trip to Scotland - it was perfect outerwear there.
There are downsides - the jacket can get very hot; it still doesn't breath very well. Similarly in very cold weather, it can be incredibly cold if you don't wear something sensible inside, like a Uniqlo HeatTech polo jumper or a cashmere cardigan. But, in its defense, my Barbour looks smart, the belt has a wonderfully slimming effect and I think it makes me look less like an angry old woman than, say, a boring old M&S parka would. (I'd like to point out that I shop at M&S quite a lot, so please no emails extolling the virtues of this old shopping institution - I only use the brand as a turn of phrase...phew). Besides, when my Barbour gets old and dirty, by all accounts my social standing should rise. 

Here's hoping.

I love my Barbour International so much that last week when shopping on Regent's Street with a good friend I found myself buying a new one. This time I wanted something more lightweight and tried on a quilted jacket, called Cavalary Polarquilt. It has no belt, but the back is cut slightly longer giving that all important small back region extra warmth. It's lined in soft fleece fabric, has a couple of pockets inside a couple on the outside. Its cut flatters the female shape and the navy colour  goes perfectly with my new blue theme. Since buying it, I’ve been wearing it almost every day.
My new jacket
My new Cavalary Polarquilt

The Barbour shop on Regent's Street was busy.

I loved the look of this Barbour Ladies Antique Brigade Jacket too
So here I am eating my words. Either Barbour has suddenly got smarter or I’ve gone over to the dark side. Take your pick.

Barbour Cavalary Polarquilt £139.95

(Something odd is going on with the fonts - apologies, the change in size is not intentional and doesn't show in the editing mode. Good old Blogger...)


Unknown said...

I can totally relate to everything you've written - got my first Barbour jacket recently (with Liberty lining) and absolutely love it - brands such as Barbour and Liberty are the best thing about British fashion.

Anonymous said...

Nice story..:-) you know I love fashion..Marica R from Finland

Unknown said...

Just after I wrote this post I wanted to wear my International, but couldn't find it anywhere. I turned the flat upside down, but to no avail. For a moment I thought this must be bad karma...until a few days later the Englishman found it underneath one of his coats. I am now even happier about my Barbours!

Helena xx

Alison Cross said...

I used to have a Barbour jacket years ago and it was wonderful. I might invest in another one as the designs you've shown here are RATHER nice!

Glad your jacket has turned up ok!


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Oliver said...

I agree with everything you've written. The barbour fashion has changed over the years and both the look and feel have improved greatly. - O&C Butcher