This British heritage brand moves masterfully with the times.

In 1894 John Barbour, an importer of oil cloth, started producing clothing that would keep the rain off all the sailors, fishermen and dock workers at the nearby port of South Shields.

The company has been innovatively making its iconic waxed outerwear, country clothes and boots ever since. Barbour is now sold in over 55 countries around the world and caters for men, women, children and even dogs.

If Barbour once had a Sloaney reputation, associated as it always was with posh country pursuits and the royal family, the tide turned when Alexa Chung wore one of their waxed jackets at Glastonbury in 2007.

‘It gave the Barbour a new shine and opened it up to a whole other generation who didn’t necessarily want to look like The Queen, but did aspire to look like Alexa Chung,’ says Bethan Holt of The Daily Telegraph. ‘Barbour was very clever in capitalising on that moment.’

Today, whether you are a monarch, farmer or hipster, you’re likely to have a Barbour in your life. The company says: ‘Barbour remains true to its core values as a family business which espouses the unique values of the British countryside and brings the qualities of wit, grit and glamour to its beautifully functional clothing.’

Here, we tell you why we love the quintessentially British label so.


Any heritage brand that makes its way to Glastonbury deserves applause. Alexa Chung may have got a lot of attention in 2007 – but year after year, Barbour is spotted in the crowds at the world’s most famous music festival.


Barbour’s traditional waxed jackets are still made at a factory in South Shields, where it takes 36 people to make each one. Showing its true class and longevity, Barbour repairs and rewaxes over 25,000 jackets a year, a practice the company began in 1921.


The brand has three royal warrants – HM the Queen, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cambridge are all fans – but it is also beloved of a range of celebrities, including Sienna Miller, Lily Allen, Olivia Palermo, Ben Fogle and Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall. Helen Barbour, a descendant of John Barbour and the company’s vice chairman, says: ‘Whenever I see anybody of celebrity status in one of our jackets it’s a buzz.’


During the pandemic, the Barbour factory began making PPE disposable gowns for the NHS. They ended up making a total of 50,000 gowns to help the fight against Covid.


One member of the Barbour family – Duncan Barbour – was so obsessed by motorcycling that he introduced Barbour’s motorcycling range, which then dressed British motorcyclists from 1936 to 1977. Actor and keen motorcyclist Steve McQueen exclusively wore Barbour when he raced.


Like Hoover (a vacuum cleaner) and Biro (a pen), the brand-name Barbour has become synonymous with any old waxed country jacket. That alone gives it a certain status.


Barbour’s collaborations – with the likes of Moncler, Alice Temperley, Land Rover, Liberty, House of Hackney, Ally Cappellino – are frequently unexpected and always clever.


The brand is a star of the small screen. After it appeared in several TV shows in 2020, internet searches for Barbour went up 196 per cent. The Guardian said: “From I Hate Suzie to Industry and perhaps most prominently in The Crown, the jacket has been a prominent piece of costuming for lead characters. The fourth season of the royal saga saw the Queen (Olivia Colman), Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) and Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) wear Barbour, prompting The Cut to call the show ‘Barbour jacket porn’.”


The company knows how to give back. The Barbour Foundation, which launched as The Barbour Trust in 1988, has so far given £26 million to charities and good causes in the northeast of England.


Always modernising, Barbour simply refuses to be put out to pasture. “It constantly reinvents itself,” says stylist Luke McDonald. ‘Because of the workwear element, there’s a style that suits everyone. A Barbour looks good whether you’re Prince Charles or a student.’

By Becky Ladenburg
September 2022

Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.