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Vintage Barbour Jackets

posted by Matt Pierce on February 08, 2011

I love old English things, but sometimes they can be cantankerous. My ’68 Raleigh for its weird, proprietary headset standard. My grandma for starting that family feud a few years ago. Cadbury fingers for making me fat. Barbour coats because they smell waxy and are not machine washable.

Despite these notable flaws, all are unquestionably iconic and I just can’t help but love them. Even if you don’t talk to one of them in 4 years for being irrationally rude to your Mother. But hey, this is a style post and I’m here to talk about vintage Barbour coats!

A good raincoat is a necessity in climate like Portland’s, and who better would know how to deal with this than the British? In a current market of synthetic rain-proof materials and slick, goofy designs, Barbour stands out. John Barbour founded J. Barbour & Sons back in 1894 – as a company that made clothing to keep fishermen, sailors and dock workers dry. Formulas and techniques have changed slightly since then, but the original character and intent has not.

New Barbour coats are available in many places today, and they fetch a healthy price. It's a perfect example of you get what you pay for – a coat that will last decades. However, with that said, I opted to find a vintage piece for much less than the cost of new. Other reasons to opt for vintage: they’re broken-in, look great, and still can have tons of life left in them. If your vintage piece has seen some wear, you can (and should when necessary, even on new coats) retreat the wax to ensure water is never a concern. Sometimes if you scout well, you can find one with a hood, which is usually a $100 option on new coats.

Barbour has many styles, but to me, there’s two main ways to go - the International for cruising on your vintage motorbike, or one of the hunting/utility looks. The most common of the utility coats I’ve found is the Bedale, Beaufort and the Border. The main differences in the three are lengths. I went with the longest of the three, the Border – for the most protection and since it'll fully cover a suit jacket.

If you start searching, you’ll find all manner of intricacies with these jackets. It’s funny to read that some periods break tradition with different patterns of plaid on the inside and certain collectors totally rant! I think mine is actually a variant. Does this change the value? Not from what I can tell, but it’s interesting none-the-less. If you’re searching and can’t find exactly what you want... do like me and search internationally on ebay. I ended up buying from a vintage dealer in England, and although the shipping was higher, it was completely worth it. Good luck finding yours!