A 125-year-old global British style brand
J.Barbour & Sons was founded in 1894 in England by a Scottish importer of oil cloth. Today it is run by the fifth generation of the Barbour family and has become synonymous with waxed cotton jackets.
It sells over 100,000 jackets a year, as well as clothing and shoes and has royal warrants from the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles. In Britain, the brand has long been associated with outdoor pursuits, particularly motorcycling, with its 1908 catalogue marketing an oil skin motorcycling suit “impregnable by wind or wet”.
The company’s 1936 A1 one-piece bike suit, called the International, was adapted for military use during the Second World War and became standard issue for British submariners. In 1964, Steve McQueen and the rest of the US team made a detour to London to buy their Barbour Internationals en route to compete in the ISDT in East Germany.
However, Barbour only relatively recently made a significant export push, with a German subsidiary in 1988. It now has a presence in over 40 countries including the US, Holland, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Japan. The achievements of Margaret Barbour have been widely recognised, not least in the north-east.
The brand has become an urban accessory, worn by city slickers from Mayfair to Munich. There are thousands of them to be seen at the Glastonbury Festival, for example. And 50 per cent of Barbour owners are also dog owners, notes this excellent article in Esquire.