It is a sad time in a gents life when one of his favourite items a staple of his wardrobe finally has to be consigned to the cupboard under the stairs never to be seen again, or taken to the local Charity shop or shipped out via eBay .
The Wax Jacket has always been in my wardrobe, wearing my father’s on the farm as a kid, I soon moved on to having a practical field jacket in my early twenty’s, and then as a wardrobe staple something so iconic it can be worn in town, city or rural idyll, on dog walks, on shoots and to business meetings as an over coat.
My well loved and well worn Belstaff Black Prince Trailmaster has after 15 good years of service finally given up the ghost. I was no-longer waterproof, the collar and cuffs are a little more than just foxed, pockets have holes… I’m starting to look like a Scarecrow on dog walks, a wet one at that.
Belstaff like Barbour do offer a re-waxing service, and will do repairs, and this was a very tempting offer, after all, this jacket deserves it. It’s done me well. I didn’t go this route, partly as their manufacturing has moved from the UK, and Belstaff has to me lost a bit of its appeal now it’s more a Fashion House than a functional sports wear manufacturer. The original ‘Buy British’ and have the same jacket as T E Lawrence, Che Guevara, and Steve McQueen incentive has gone. To quote Ian Burrell (9 January 2010). “How did an old-fashioned British manufacturer of motorbike clobber become the label of choice for the Hollywood set?” To some this added appeal; to me it was the nail in the coffin.
As a boy, my family swore by Barbour, one of the only ‘brands’ on the farm, and rightly so, my two forts Wax Jackets we both Barbours, and hand me downs from my Uncle and Father respectively, to add my first Belstaff Trailmaster was also a hand me down from and old biker. From my Uncle I got aged 8 (my Uncle’s nick name was ‘Tiny’, and I was a big lad) Barbour Beaufort, navy blue, I fell in love with the waxed jacket there and then, I loved the smell, the practical roughed toughness, and it just looked and felt right. It still hang in out hall…Give my son a couple more years…and my wife has been known to wear it out with the hounds.
So this got me thinking, the Belstatff replacement MUST be a Barbour…..But which one?
A decade ago we only affiliated Barbour jackets with our great British Country scene. The classic farmer’s jacket has come a long way indeed still made in the UK Barbour it has gone through some changes, its core range still sit there but, with a stable of others, International, Heritage (buzz word of the moment), Lifestyle and Sporting, not to mention their Fashion collaborations and labels, Paul Smith, Norton and Son, Tokito Yoshida, Liberty of London…. The list goes on. Let’s not forget Mr James Bond wearing the now dubbed Commander Jacket in the recent Skyfall film, which just identifies what heights Barbour have reached in the last five or so years.
So will all this, I was inspired, I got a new Barbour! After careful consideration I selected the Barra, for the following reasons: In 2005, Patrick Grant ( a personal hero of mine, and style guru) with little money and no experience in the industry – sold his car and home in order to purchase Norton & Sons, a struggling Savile Row tailors. Under his stewardship, Norton & Sons began looking back on its heritage and focusing all of the company’s efforts on the creating of superior quality bespoke suiting. He re-launched the Tautz (the sporting Tailors taken up by Norton & Sons) label to some success, and now is working with Barbour…What a delicious thought!!!
This jacket is not only a Barbour, but piece of Savile Row fashion history. It’s practical, I have tested
her well in the last few weeks of storms here in Sussex while dog walking, water tight, tough enough to climb through brambles with my dogs, and looks great. It might take some braking in until the pockets have the outline of hip-flask, pocket knife and matches. But this will come, it will age, it will become a piece of me, like any good bit of clothing, its marks and wear will make it as bespoke as the Norton & Sons suits, its clean cuts and authoritarian silhouettes of Norton & Sons mixed with the work wear. It is for me near perfection.