The Rise of the Great British Barbour

J. Barbour and Sons Ltd were founded by John Barbour in 1894 in South Shields as a company who imported seemingly unwanted oil cloth from around Europe. They became well known locally for their waxed jackets and other outdoor clothing, to such an extent that all clothing of this nature in the area was referred to simply as a ‘Barbour’. Although they have always been popular garments for country dwellers, particularly in the north-east of England – no one envisage the meteoric rise the brand have seen over the last few years as Barbour coats and jackets have become the staple of youth culture across the United Kingdom. It seems that nearly everyone has either a distinctive quilted Barbour or wax jacket, making them one of the success stories of the 2000’s so far.


The Barbour started to appear in the fashion world when such celebrities as Alexa Chung, the former girlfriend of Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, donned them at her various festival appearances. It seems that the cool youth had cottoned on the rustic look, warmth and durability of the Barbour waxed jacket. The jackets last years if not decades and if they do incur any damage during escapades then they can be sent to the Barbour headquarters in South Shield where they will be lovingly repaired. In the region of 100,000 Barbour’s are services every year.


Do not be fooled though, the fashionistas out there have not suddenly become all practical. Barbour jackets, coats and shirts are being worn around the world because men and women love the way they look and feel. Stores such as Harvey Nicholls and stars such as Olivia Palermo would not be championing the historic oil cloth brand from modest brand from South Tyneside if they weren’t fitting the bill aesthetically. The powers that be at Barbour have clearly been ingenious in transforming their practical and durably garments into fashion statements that would be at home at the most glamorous locations in the world. Seeing models and movie starts sporting their Barbour alongside their Chloe bag and heels would have been unthinkable a decade ago – but not the fusion seems obvious.

The Barbour has already succeeded in rising from country girl and boy staple to international fashion player and they continue to expand – appearing on the country’s leading country clothing websites. John Barbour from Galloway, Scotland – the fashion world is applauding you.

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