Brand Spotlight: Barbour

Barbour LogoThe history of the Barbour brand is deep-rooted in the traditional lifestyle of the British countryside. The company was first established as an oil-cloth importer, eventually providing protective outerwear for blue-collar workers like farmers and fisherman dealing with unfavourable weather conditions. This identity has become synonymous with the brand when discussing the evolution of British style. Barbour’s signature quilted and wax-cotton jackets fully embody this distinct element of charm that is evident within the details of each product.

Celebrating 120 years of style, the family-owned business became the provider of “waterproof and protective clothing” for the royal family forty years ago upon receiving the first royal warrant from The Duke of Edinburgh.  In recent years, Will and Kate -the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge- have been spotted wearing their Barbour pieces during activities that are common in the countryside, like hunting or even just taking the dog for a walk. It is this aspect of prestige that has allowed the brand to become one of the most celebrated heritage companies to date.

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A young Prince Harry and Prince William wearing Barbour.

The Barbour company factory remains in North East England in the town of South Shields, where founder John Barbour opened the first business venture for J Barbour & Sons in 1894. As this year marks five generations of family dedication, the collection has also developed to include products for men, women and children, reflecting the legacy of family-driven business ethics that have built the brand into what it is today.

Each member of the Barbour family has made a unique contribution to the heritage of the brand that can be traced back to the days when John Barbour founded the company. One of the most notable changes came about when John’s grandson, Duncan Barbour, took control in 1936 when he introduced a line of outerwear specifically designed for motorcycle enthusiasts.


Today the once niche-market collection of Barbour International products has grown to become one of the most recognizable aspects of the heritage brand. The “King of Cool” himself, Steve McQueen, is credited for helping to popularize the collection among professional riders after purchasing the wax-cotton International jacket for himself in the mid-60s.

Recently, fashion trendsetters from around the Toronto area visited us here at Sporting Life to browse the most recent collections from Barbour. Entertainment Tonight Canada co-host Rick Campanelli snagged a few great pieces, including the Waxed Stanley Blazer. This versatile jacket is stylish and promises to maintain Barbour’s reputation of providing outerwear “without an expiry date”. The brand also offers full repairs and reproofing to keep your coat always looking top notch.

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Rick Campanelli and Alexis Honce trying on their Barbour picks at Sporting Life.

The travel and daytime bags were a huge hit among out style ambassadors! Style expert Afiya Francisco and fashion stylist Alexis Honce both fell for Barbour’s wool duffle bags, in chic plaid and stripe prints, that are perfect for overnight trips. Almost all of our style ambassadors were immediately drawn to pieces from the International collection, especially the waxed-cotton International jacket. They noted the classic fit and hardware detailing as attractive characteristics that promise to withstand the test of time. Breakfast Television’s Jennifer Valentyne also stopped by to do some shopping and took home the Waxed Buxton Jacket to go with her fun Biker Tote from the Barbour collection.


Afiya Francisco and Jennifer Valentyne with their new Barbour products.

Barbour is recognized today as an exciting example of success in the fashion industry: a heritage brand that is successfully expanding their clientele without sacrificing their countryside roots. The evidence is in the details of each unique piece that the brand manufactures. The wax-cotton jacket has become the foundation of the brand and many styles are still made by hand today, over a century after the first products were sold. From their signature black and yellow patches to chic tartan linings, Barbour offers timeless pieces that are guaranteed to become a staple in any wardrobe.  If the company’s rich history says anything about what the future holds for the brand, it is safe to say that this is only the beginning for the Barbour family.

“Barbour has a timeless elegance, which means it’s always being rediscovered by new generations. A new, young audience means Barbour is no longer all about the jacket but about the iconic styling, the heritage and the stories.”