When Dame Margaret Barbour met the Queen she asked if Her Majesty would like a new Barbour for her silver jubilee. The monarch politely declined and asked instead if she could perhaps have her old one re-waxed.
When Daniel Craig’s Bond defends his ancestral home Skyfall in the frozen wilds of the Scottish Highlands only one jacket is fit for purpose. For all the space-age technology available to MI6, it is a brand over 100 years old that the world’s most famous spy places his trust in.
Since it was founded in 1894, the iconic waxed cotton of Barbour has not only proved itself in the theatre of war but withstood the muddy glamour of Glastonbury’s backstage parties. Lightweight, thornproof and 100 per cent weatherproof with two big bellow pockets, a large pull ring two way zip and corduroy collar are the signature attributes of the classic design.
The range was based on oil cloth, a brilliant material that shed water like a duck’s back but which also breathed. Barbour originally displayed their patriotic colours by producing weatherproof outdoor clothing for the military – with their Ursula suit becoming standard issue for the submarine service in WWII.
Prior to this, they supplied oilskins and outdoor garments to local seamen, sailors and dockers, which provided a buffer to the treacherous North Sea weather. And it was not long before word reached South America and Asia, where landowners and farmers became enamoured with the protection and comfort offered by the trademark check lining.
Famous faces from Steve McQueen to Lily Allen and the Artic Monkeys are just a few of many stars to have sported the garment. But despite international acclaim, Barbour’s traditional jackets continue to be produced at the 180-strong factory in the coastal town of South Shields.
However, the company doesn’t go in for handing out freebies to the rich and famous in the hope of publicity. Kate Moss paid cash as did Alexa Chung, Billie Piper and the country set, who have all helped make the jackets a big hit with hipsters.
In total, it takes 36 people to make just one Barbour jacket from start to finish – with each person an essential part of the production process. Yet, it really is a jacket for life, with the factory’s renowned re-waxing service repairing and reproofing approximately 13,000 jackets each year. Restoring them to their former glory, just like Bond.