It’s no secret that Anglophilia has taken America by storm. It seems like more Americans watched William and Kate’s wedding than they did Obama’s inauguration (don’t quote me on that).
Our general love for all things Brit has most definitely crossed over to the fashion world. But this is nothing new. Whether we’re lacing up our favorite pair of Clark’s Desert Boots or huddling under a Burberry trench coat, basic British pieces have long been wardrobe staples for American males.
As a historian of early modern Britain, I admit that I have a streak of Anglophilia in my blood. Recently, this has taken form in my craving for a Barbour waxed cotton jacket.
J. Barbour and Sons Ltd. began producing outerwear in 1894 at their factory in South Shields, England.
Initially an importer of waxed cotton, the Barbour Company soon became known throughout the United Kingdom for producing high quality jackets that were perfect for enduring the soggy, blustery weather of the North Atlantic. By 1974, Barbour received the first of its three royal warrants to supply “waterproof and protective clothing” to Britain’s monarchs. Now the company’s legacy was secure and official.
A Barbour jacket, in essence, is a light-to-midweight jacket made of cotton with a waxed (waterproof) finish. Although there are dozens of models available, Barbour jackets usually come in “country” neutral colors like dark green, brown and black and are outfitted with varying combinations of pockets, hoods and liners. Their large, durable zipper pull-tabs are glove-friendly, and they often have an interior waist drawstring for customizable fit.
In my opinion, such a jacket is a must-have wardrobe piece, as it is the perfect combination of classic utilitarian function and style. Like every clothing item I detail in this column, a Barbour jacket will never go out of style and will serve you well for years. The waxed finish will get better with age as the cotton breaks in and molds to your body.
As detailed extensively online, many people take great pride in the personalization of their well-worn Barbour jackets over the years with unique creases, scratches, and fit. Barbour continues to offer repair and re-waxing services at their factory in England.
A problem I’ve come across in my quest for a Barbour jacket is, unfortunately, the high price. At $400-$500, this classic British piece doesn’t come cheap. However, this opens up another avenue for this column, which is the secondhand option. Since these jackets are so well made, you can often find one in fantastic shape on eBay for around $100 shipped.
As always, be sure to do your research and choose the model that’s right for you. Read the description closely, as this is where sellers will often detail cosmetic deficiencies and precise measurements.
In closing, a Barbour jacket is not only a great chance to get your Brit fix — this multi-purpose, everyday jacket can take you from the office to the woods and will work hard for you for years to come. Now, if I can just get one …