I know I’ve said repeatedly that I’m “calming down” on purchases, but sometimes you just gotta have it.
Especially when it’s a Barbour.
During the early months of this blog, I wrote an article about the Basic Green Jacket (or the BGJ for short) and how I noticed it on my college campus. This piece was rather open ended, remarking on the general trend I’d see on tumblr of girls and guys wearing olive outerwear with their fall/winter clothes. Looking back, the trend wasn’t about a specific hyped piece but rather the idea of wearing something that fit the bill. MFA would recommend the M-65 or similar utility jackets; streetwear (at least at the time) would be fans of the fishtail parka, presumably for the drama and Kanye influence. It was an intentional (yet vague) choice that anyone could get into, being a touch above a typical denim/leather jacket and not as “formal” as an overcoat. It was ubiquitous— everyone know that a good BGJ could go with everything.
I obviously was not immune to the charms of the BGJ. My first one was a H&M hunting-style chore jacket that was a mixture of nylon and faux wool and even had a corduroy collar (it later went to my friend Andrew). Then I got an M-43 and a few years later, a jungle jacket, which has been an iconic part of my style. There’s just something about outerwear that is not a leather jacket or cut overcoat that is charming and aesthetically versatile. But despite the general idea of the BGJ, there was something in me that always wanted the “real” one. If you go back to that 2016 article and read to the end, you’ll see what my heart always wanted: a Barbour jacket.
It’s actually surprising to me that I knew what a Barbour jacket was all the way back in 2015. I was barely on Reddit and my exposure to menswear was all on tumblr and the hashtag search (there wasn’t an explore page algorithm back then). But it was clear that somehow, through all the images of The Armoury (before I knew what it was) and Pitti attendees, someone had mentioned the name Barbour in reference to a special kind of BGJ. One that had pockets like I’d never seen before (bellows), a wide corduroy collar, and the a matte finish that made it look almost earthy in certain light. It also had a tailored look to it: not as fussy as a field jacket, more dressy than a parka, but not as refined as an overcoat coat (and I’m including both macs, balmacaans, and DB styles here).
The more I saw it as I got into contemporary menswear, the Barbour became almost a legend for me! It was just so interesting to see how something that was a bit specialized (again, it wasn’t a trench coat or a military jacket) be so versatile in how it was worn. What was surprising was seeing how both “normies” (think MFA’s basic bastard) and “hardcore enthusiasts” (I’m talking #Menswear and #menswear) both found a way to wear it. It was perfectly at home with plain chinos, common projects, and a grey sweater as it was worn over a navy Italian bespoke suit with an Ascot Chang shirt and Drake’s tie. As my menswear journey continued, I was obviously more interested in how it worked with a more tailored/ivy context.
To be clear, the “legendary status” the Barbour occupied in my head was not in a grail/I-must-have it way, but something similar to Drake’s or Ring Jacket. I wanted to get tactile with it. Handle it and try it on. See if it could jive for my style and everyday life. Of course being in LA was a big barrier to that— it’s hot and it seldom rains. Not only does this mean that you wouldn’t see Barbours worn in the wild, but it also means that it wouldn’t make sense historically for an Angelino to own one. As you guys know, I’m the kind of guy who likes to be a bit more hands-on with a garment (or style move) to ascertain whether or not I can make it work for authenticities sake. Without that, it seemed that this specific BGJ was for everybody except me, here in the City of Stars.
I guess what I’m trying to say was that it was tough for me to get the right references for it. Out of all my saved vintage Golden Era inspo photos (which still inspire my style today), a Barbour jacket wasn’t anywhere to be found. The only times I really saw it worn was either in old UK photos (which American vintage enthusiasts seldom reblog), Ivy style people in the 1960s-1980s, or worn by guys in the menswear industry. Overcoats, jungle jackets, white socks, and brown checked jackets were things that anyone all over the world (past and present) could wear. Barbours seemed to be their own thing.
After all, Barbour was originally a British workwear brand meant for foul weather. The waxed cotton was there to repel water, making it a bit more gorp-y when compared to a regular trenchcoat. The jackets are also relatively light and malleable, making them a very practical outerwear garment. All this to say that it makes sense to how they are such an iconic piece of British fashion, being used to keep dry by fishermen, motorcyclists, and even the army before being transitioned into a civilian garment worn by Royals and businessmen alike. Of course this Anglo root is most likely why the Barbour makes more sense on the East Coast rather than the West, both due to weather and heritage.
That’s why I felt a bit envious of people who happened to own them. They were able to point to this Anglo/Ivy aesthetic whenever you wore one! A Barbour’s inclusion with an outfit was a subtle, yet intentional aesthetic that again is quite different when compared to the “agnostic” outerwear pieces you see. Even my non-menswear friends who would occasionally see my reblogs or my IG feed would remark how cool the Barbour was. It was distinct, being a bit like a trench coat and a military jacket, but not really. It was almost as if owning one was a #menswear right of passage, for both the IG explore page or for a seasoned menswear industry veteran. Everyone recognized its appeal, especially since everyone also knew it wasn’t found everywhere (though I think one of my J. Crews stocked a model once).
I’ll say that I don’t believe that a Barbour is a must-have or essential, but it’s still cool choice to have when considering outerwear options. I even consider them aesthetically versatile— a beige trench coat looks great with tailoring, but not so much with a regular sweater and jeans (though obviously you can do it if you want to). A Barbour goes great with both (for some reason), though you could argue the green color can make it difficult to match with more casual clothing (which might be the appeal if one has a plethora of brown and navy outerwear). But despite all that, it was easy to refrain from copping it. LA didn’t need it and they didn’t show up at Rose Bowl or US eBay (for cheap) very often. My M-43, Uniqlo Blocktech overcoat, and later my red J. Crew Barn Coat would serve as Barbour alternatives just fine.
Perhaps it was good that I didn’t just hop into buying a Barbour early on, since it allowed me some time to stew and research. You guys know that I don’t have very many bricked purchases, but I still sit on things before fully committing. So I lived vicariously through other people, taking note of the different variations that my menswear pals would post, many of them Barbour fanatics.
Jake Grantham was noted across Tumblr for wearing the moderate length Beaufort on top of Ciccio suits (and later Anglo-Italian, his own brand). Chase seemed to be a fanatic of belted versions, rocking an the International (the motorcycle one) and Solway (which his compatriot Matt Woodruff also wears). Matt Hranek is famously known for his extensive Barbour collection, focusing mostly on Internationals. There were obviously many others who I would see post new and old Barbours (as well as other waxed cotton coats) of varying details, age, and patinas. My friend Adam found a Solway knock off when he was with me at the Rose Bowl; Spencer even got a 90s Gamefair (a longer Beaufort) at a different Rose Bowl excursion. I was left out, resigned to archiving my favorite fits on my Imgur archive.
I think you might agree that the Barbour (and other waxed cotton jackets in similar cuts) just have something special to them.
“My M-43 and barn coat are just fine”, I’d tell myself as I wore them over my tailoring to evoke the silhouette of a knee-length Barbour. The issue was that neither of those jackets were particularly long, both being only a fraction of an inch longer than my tailored jackets (which are long already). It wasn’t bad, but I was starting to feel the inkling for a Barbour, where I knew that if I were to get one, it would have to be considerably longer than a sportcoat. I didn’t get to cover it in the proportions essay, but I’m not a huge fan of when an “overlayer” is not a bit longer than the sportcoat. You might argue that a military parka would’ve been better for that reason, but I liked the “tailoredness” of a Barbour.
The hankering to grab one was especially strong after I binged the entirety of The Crown, where multiple characters wear them, both with hunting attire and tailored separates. Still, without luck at the flea and an unwillingness to pay exorbitant amounts on eBay (might as well buy one new at that price), I didn’t feel the need to search hard.
I knew how I’d wear one— I just lacked the Barbour itself.
At least that was the case until a member of my Patreon Discord posted that they got a Barbour on Grailed for relatively cheap, here meaning less than $250~ (Barbours old and new are around $300+). Intrigued, I decided to finally peruse Grailed— something I never really do as I have no need for designer archives (and Drake’s sample sales and Drop93 are better for tailoring). I actually found quite a few within the $150-$200 range! The only problems were that they weren’t the size/model I wanted (a size 40 in a Solway or Gamefair; can’t deal with the short jackets) and they would be shipping from outside of the US, which was iffy to me. I decided to monitor it until everything was in alignment.
After a lot of small Beauforts, I finally found the one: a decent condition Gamefair in a size 40…shipping out from Poland (with affordable $20 shipping). In true Grailed fashion (haha), I submitted an offer and ended up getting the Barbour for around $150 total! Not as great as Spencer and a few of my East Coast/London friends who were able to get theirs for under $100, but at least I didn’t pay over my threshold of $200. Even though this was going to effectively replace a few pieces in my wardrobe, I also wanted to make sure it was an easy “investment” to swallow.
The Gamefair arrived after about two weeks, which was honestly pretty surprising considering it was coming from Europe. I was delighted to find that my Gamefair was also pretty long, ending right around my knee making it perfect to wear with sportcoats and suits. My fears weren’t unfounded, as Henrik and Spencer both own Gamefairs that appear to be quite short, which would be a problem to wear with sportcoats (at least for me). The only Barbour I had ever worn was a Beaufort that Chris got from a Discord Member; he had a 38 and it was slightly too short and snug, which is why I opted for a 40.
Thank God my Barbour wasn’t smelly either. I’ve heard plenty of stories from friends about how their Barbours gain an awful musty odor due to the wax and rain. Chase has even written his own article about what to do if your Barbour gets that funk. I was scared that it would be awful, with thejacket being bought second hand and being in a shipping bag for two weeks. Thankfully this wasn’t the case. It only smelled like you’d expect waxed cotton to smell like! It’s definitely noticeable in small spaces or when you really get close, but I’m hoping it’ll be a while before I have to use some peroxide-vinegar wash (or send it to a specialized cleaner). It’s only seen a little bit of rain with me so far!
You can see that my Gamefair is absolutely perfect for what I want it to do. It’s roomy without being too oversized, working well over my tailoring; the long corduroy collar is plenty dramatic to prop up and even close if LA ever gets foul weather. It actually has been quite muggy and damp with a few sprinkles here and there (LA’s version of “foul weather)”, so I’ve been wearing it a lot.
While the previous inspiration photos prove that you can wear it with anything, I like to wear it with tailoring. Most of the time it has an Ivy lean to it, with the conducive pairing making me feel like I’m cosplaying (lovingly) as an old trad who moved to Pasadena in the 1970s. I also like pulling a Jake Grantham and wearing it with more formal looks (read Yuppie) to give the Barbour a “I just threw it on what I was already wearing” type of vibe. Even when it’s not worn with ivy/trad or Yuppie attire (like when I throw it on over jeans and a denim shirt), it retains that practical Ivy vibe simply with the Barbour’s inclusion. The garment is quite thematic in that way, making me feel ivy-trad (or English).
The funny thing is that it feels more natural to me than any of my other outerwear. Not because I finally acquired a menswear icon, but simply due to its use and design. Perhaps more of the second one, as it feels tailored despite not being super formal. I’m fully aware that this is more of a menswear purchase than a practical purchase, but the Barbour honestly feels a lot more wearable here than my raglan or my duffle. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them (those real coats are great when I really can’t stand the cold), but the Barbour is a bit more rugged and versatile in a way that isn’t too #menswear (though if I was in NYC or London, I’d look like a typical menswear guy anyway). I’m not sure if that attitude will change the more I wear it, but it’s still great and practical, at least for the few weeks of wear I’ve been able to have.
While this has made me pass on my red barn coat to my girlfriend (who wears it well), I know that this will never beat the full practicality of my water repellant Uniqlo shell coat nor will it fully replace my M-43 field jacket. Each of those pieces have their specific uses, just as this Barbour does. I’ve added it to my arsenal not to be the ultimate form of outerwear in a man’s closest, but for a pointed aesthetic that you really can’t get from another piece. It’s no dissimilar to a chore coat, jungle jacket, or a double rider. It’s not as militaristic as a utility jacket nor as sleek as an overcoat. The Barbour it is own thing.
There is something so delightfully intentional about wearing a Barbour. Making you feel practical, relaxed, and totally #menswear all in one British-New England garment. If anything, that’s the main reason to get one for yourself.
More on this topic of “dressing like a character” soon…
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