Behind the brand: Barbour

Family lies at the core of the Barbour brand, which was founded in 1894 by John Barbour. Still owned by the Barbour family, with Dame Margaret Barbour as Chairman, and her daughter, Helen, Vice Chairman, on the Board of Directors.

In its 121-year history, the company has made a name for itself as a leading British heritage lifestyle brand. Founded by John Barbour, a Scot from Galloway, they have become internationally famous for their waxed cotton jackets. Barbour initially put themselves on the retail map when they began producing weatherproof outdoor clothing for the military, with their Ursula suit becoming standard issue for the Submarine service in WWII. Prior to this, the company was supplying oilskins and other outdoor garments to the surrounding community of fishermen, sailors and dockers to protect them from the treacherous North Sea weather. Quickly establishing themselves as one of the leading suppliers of such garments and becoming well-known for their innovation and high levels of quality, the first Barbour catalogue was introduced in 1908 and the company soon opened it’s client base to a global audience spanning from landowners and farmers to buyers as far flung as South America and Asia.


It was in 1936, that the iconic wax cotton International motorcycle jacket was first created and thus worn by almost every rider in the International Six Day Trials circuit from the 1950s to the 1970s, with Steve McQueen being just one of many famous faces to have sported the jacket.

Still to this day, Barbour’s traditional jackets continue to be at the heart of the company. They are produced at their 180 person strong factory (which they moved to in 1981) in the Northern coastal town of South Shields. With three Royal Warrants (the Duke of Edinburgh (1974), Her Majesty the Queen (1982) and HRH the Prince of Wales (1987)), under their (well-waxed) belts, it comes as no surprise that the order and process in which their logically laid out factory works is second to none.


In total, it takes 36 people to make just one Barbour jacket from start to finish. Each person an essential part of the production process. From the initial selection of fabrics for wax cotton jackets and linings in tartan, nylon and moleskin, the fabric is cut to length. Computer generated garment patterns from Barbour House are then overlaid across the wax cotton ready to be cut out by hand. Once cut, the pieces are transferred to the prep and production lines, (the prep lines handle the smaller detailed work). When the prep work is complete it is the responsibility of the team leader to move the completed pieces onto the racking for one of the 5 production Lines; each of which can have different styles of garments being made.


Hanging clips on a Diablo are used to pass the completed pieces on to the next member of the team via a Pulley system, taking approximately 60 – 90 minutes to complete a garment (depending on the style). A vast number of individual parts make up a Barbour jacket. For example, a total of 160 parts make up a Bedale jacket. Broken down into; 49 cut parts of fabric, 103 trims which include binding, thread, zips & studs, 8 items of packaging including of care leaflets, ticketing, badges and poly bag.


With approximately 50 styles of traditional wax jackets for men, women and children in production at the factory, the hand made pieces are produced like clock-work on a daily basis. The factory produces approximately 3000 garments per week and 130,000 – 140,000 per year.

Also within the factory is the renowned re-waxing service, where each year approximately 13,000 Barbour jackets are lovingly repaired, reproofed or altered to their former glory. With roots firmly in it’s heritage, the Barbour brand continues to grow and develop each year, a testament to it’s founder and family values.

For more, visit Barbour.

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