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Barbour – British Workwear Inspired Clothing Since 1870

A Family Run Business Founded in the North East of England by John Barbour

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Barbour Fashion Label

An Introduction to the Barbour fashion brand

Barbour - British Heritage Fashion

Classic County Clothing from Barbour

The roots of the Barbour brand were planted when John Barbour left his home in Scotland to set up a business in the North East of England as a travelling draper. In 1894, with the support of his family, John Barbour starts up J Barbour & Sons on South Shield’s Market Place. The oilskin coats the brand offered became instantly popular with the seamen of the port. When John’s son Malcolm (along with his brother Jack) joined Barbour in 1906, the fortunes of the brand again improved thanks to Malcolm’s innovations of introducing a Barbour catalogue and getting the brand to act as purchasing agents. Despite little hiccups, such as two world wars and the great depression, the brand continued to go from strength to strength under the leadership of many generations of the Barbour family.

As of 2011, the brand remains a Barbour family run business and Barbour headquarters remains in South Shield’s Simonside, where it has been since 1957, when the brand’s first manufacturing plant was built there.

The Barbour brand has increased its product range to include over 2,000 pieces over six collections: The Heritage Collection, The Contemporary Collection, The 75th Anniversary Collection, The Classic Collection, The Beacon Heritage Collection and The Sporting Collection. The domestic and international presence of Barbour has also increased with 11 stand alone stores in the UK and a retail presence in over 40 countries globally, including Holland, France, the US, Italy, Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and Spain.

Barbour Heritage Collection 01Barbour Heritage Collection 02

As of 2011 the Barbour Brand has Six Collections, Including the Heritage Collection.

A Family Affair: A Timeline Snapshot of the Barbour Brand

  • 1849: Barbour founder, John Barbour is born and raised on a farm in Scotland’s Garroway.
  • 1870: John Barbour starts a business in the North East as a Travelling Draper.
  • 1894: Buoyed by encouragement and support from his family (wife Margaret Haining and 11 children), John Barbour starts up J Barbour & Sons on South Sheilds’ Market Place. The Store sold a wide selection of drapery, including outerwear, painter’s jackets, boiler suits and underwear. Among locals, the store soon became known as ‘Barbour’s’ became instantly popular, particularly among the seamen of the port for the Beacon brand oilskin coats that they supplied.
  • 1906: The Barbour business had become a great success and John Barbour made two of his sons, Jack and Malcolm, equal partners in the business.
  • 1908: Malcolm, an astute businessman, expanded the brands operations to supply Beacon oilskin clothing to landowners, farm owners and workers and shepherds. To promote the brand and improve business, Malcolm produces the first Barbour catalogue targeting farmers, seamen and fishermen.
  • 1912: J. Barbour & Sons becomes J. Barbour & Sons Ltd with founder John Barbour as Chairman and his sons Jack and Malcolm as joint Managing Directors.
  • 1914: Throughout the First World War (1914-1919) Barbour contributed to the war effort by providing the Army with oilskins.
  • 1917: Thanks to Malcolm’s innovation of introducing a catalogue, the mail order catalogue accounted for almost 75% of Barbour’s business. This included international orders far and wide, as far away as Chile, Hong Kong and South Africa.
  • 1918: Fonder of the Barbour brand, John Barbour sadly dies and is succeeded by his son Jack Barbour as Managing Director of the brand.
  • 1919: Business-minded Malcolm introduced the Barbour’s Buying Agency to allow Barbour to act as purchasing agents, supplying any goods that Barbour could not provide directly to people overseas.
  • 1927: Jack Barbour resigns as Managing Director from the company altogether and leaves brother Malcolm to run the business.
  • 1928: After learning his trade at Newcastle’s Bainbridge’s department store, Malcolm’s only son, Duncan Barbour, joins the Barbour brand.
  • 1929: The Great Depression saw the brands sales drop significantly and it wasn’t until 1935 that the economy recovered allowing sales to pick up and Barbour to return to profit.
  • 1930’s: Malcolm’s son Duncan, a keen motorcycle enthusiast, introduced a motorcycling line, which was worn by almost every British International team from 1936 to 1977 when Barbour ceased operations in the motorcycle clothing market.
  • 1939-1945: During the Second World War, Duncan Barbour was drafted to fight, leaving Malcolm, with the help of Duncan’s wife Nancy, to once again take full responsibility of the brand. Barbour once again contributes to the war effort, producing waterproof outerwear for the military. This included the development of the ‘Ursula Suit’ (named after a U-Class submarine), which became standard issue for those of the Submarine Service.
  • 1945: On his return home, after the war was over, Duncan set about expanding the Barbour brand. The brand’s base on Market Street was becoming too small to cope with demand, so Duncan set out plans to build a Barbour manufacturing plant.
  • 1957: In August, Barbour moved its operations to South Shields’ Simonside Trading Estate to their new manufacturing factory. Sadly, Duncan never got to see his plans come to fruition as he died just a few months before in June. Malcolm once more takes over the reins of Barbour, again with the help of Duncan’s wife Nancy, joined by her son John Barbour, aged just 19 at the time.
  • 1964: Son of original founder of Barbour, Malcolm Barbour dies at the age of 83. His Daughter-in-law Nancy and her son John took over the brand as Joint Managing Directors.
  • 1968: John Barbour tragically dies of a brain haemorrhage while on holiday, leaving behind a young widow, Margaret and a 2 year old daughter Helen. Although, she had previously had little experience with Barbour before her husband’s death, it was up to Helen to take over the running of the company. After inheriting her husband’s share in the brand, Margaret is made a member of the Board of Directors and she began to dedicate her time to knowing all there is to know about the Barbour brand.
  • 1972: Margaret’s success in increasing productivity and sales by implementing new manufacturing and operational systems cumulated in her being appointed as the Company Chairman.
  • 1973: The Barbour brand took the decision to cease all direct selling. The catalogues, first implemented by Malcolm Barbour, continued to support the product ranges and sales agents, with the focus being on country wear.
  • 1974: The Barbour brand receives its first Royal Warrant by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
  • 1981: The Barbour brand moves its operations to a new factory in the Simonside Trading Estate. At the beginning of the 1980’s,  many of the current Barbour classics were designed, including the ‘Bedale’, the ‘Border’ and the ‘Beaufort’, which saw more and more people wearing Barbour for general everyday activities.
  • 1982: Barbour receives its second Royal Warrant by Her Majesty the Queen.
  • 1987: The brand is awarded with its third Royal Warrant by HRH The Prince of Wales.
  • 1988: The Barbour Trust is set up to support a variety of local and national projects.
  • Early 1990’s: The Barbour brand continued to expand overseas as recognised by the awarding of three Queens Awards for Export Achievement in 1992, 1994 and 1995. Additionally, Barbour expanded its country clothing collection to include a range of breathable waterproofs alongside the already popular wax jacket.
  • 1997: Margaret’s daughter, Helen Barbour, was made Deputy Chairman of the Barbour brand.
  • 1999: The first Barbour ‘shop in shop’ opens within London’s Harrods.
  • 2002: Margaret Barbour is as appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
  • 2004: The brand begins its working relationship with Lord James Percy (younger brother of the Duke of Northumberland) – renowned as one of the most accurate shots of his generation. He was the perfect choice to aid in the design and marketing of the Barbour shooting and country clothing line, the Northumberland range.

Barbour and Lord James PercyBarbour and Lord James Percy 02

A Long-Standing Relationship with Lord James Percy in 2004 to Create the Northumberland Range.

  • 2005: The Northumberland range wins the Shooting Industry Award for the best clothing product.
  • 2009: Barbour collaborates with Japanese designer Tokihito Yoshida to create to Britprep collection, which is aimer at a wider demographic.
  • 2010: Barbour collaborates with British handbag designer Anya Hindmarch to create a capsule collection of four co-branded jackets.
  • 2011: Barbour launches its Steve McQueen Collection – uber cool actor Steve McQueen was a big fan of Barbour and the tribute jackets could have come from the wardrobe of the man himself with distressed detailing and vintage 1970’s styling. Additionally, this year sees the launch of The 75th Anniversary Collection to celebrate 75 years of the Barbour International biking jacket. The Anniversary Collection consists of 7 colourful nylon jackets, inspired by Barbour’s 1970’s racing suits.

The Barbour Steve McQueen Collectio of 2011

A Distressed Waxed Jacket from Barbour’s Steve McQueen Collection of 2011

Recent Collaborations of Barbour

Over recent years, the Barbour brand has engaged in a number of successful collaborations that has attracted a band of younger fans to the Barbour products. These collaborations have included:

Anya Hindmarch:In 2010, Barbour collaborated with luxury accessories designer Anya Hindmarch, to create a capsule jacket collection. After researching the Barbour archives for inspiration, Anya created four jacket designs, adding her unique twist to traditional Barbour designs.

“We are delighted to be collaborating with Anya Hindmarch. There is a great synergy between both brands as we both share a passion for quality and excellence. By combining Barbour’s country tailoring with Anya’s city elegance, we have created a collection of exquisite yet durable jackets.”

Claire Saunders, Head of Marketing for Barbour.

Barbour Collaboration with Anya Hindmarch of 2010

The 2010 Collaboration with Luxury Accessories Designer, Anya Hindmarch.

Tokihito Yoshida: In 2009, Barbour teamed up with Japanese designer Tokihito Yoshida to create the Britprep collection, which sees the brand move away from its usual traditional styling – instead offering a more contemporary look to attract a broader range of customers. According to Barbour ‘Britprep’ is a cross between the American Preppy look crossed with the tradition of Barbour to create a collection that is simple stylish, contemporary and captures the essence of ‘Britishness’.

Barbour Collaboration with Tokihito Yoshida of 2009

The Barbour and Tokihito Yoshida ‘Britprep’ Collaboration of 2009.

The Barbour Trust

In 1988, The Barbour Trust was set up to support a variety of local and national projects. The Trust deals primarily with community issues including welfare, health, unemployment and poverty. The Trust also donates funds to support the aid efforts after international disasters, such as the recent Tsunami tragedy in Japan. Additionally, The Barbour Trust also continues to be a substantial benefactor in the area the Barbour brand was founded, the North East. The Trust has invested in several projects in the North East such as the Alnwick Gardens, Laing Art Gallery and The Sage Gateshead.

Visit the official Barbour website here.

If you like the look of Barbour, check out British labels Gloverall, Aquascutum, and Hackett.



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