Posted 27th Apr 2015
Iconic British clothing brand Barbour has remained a family business since its story began in 1894, when founder John Barbour set up a business making quality jackets in South Shields with the desire to protect fisherman out at sea from the harsh elements, pioneering the use of wax on a jacket
Today a leading country and casual clothing brand run by the fifth generation of family, Barbour is represented in 40 countries across the world, though the classic wax jacket is still made in South Shields where it all began. Around 3,000 wax jackets are made each week spanning 50 different styles, with a single jacket taking up to an hour and a half and around 36 contributors to make – with some designs, such as the Bedale jacket, made up of an astonishing 160 different pieces.
The team of dedicated factory staff all play important roles in making the
waterproof wax jackets, from cutting the material to size and sewing it together, to stitching on labels, adding pockets and packing it to be sold, every single jacket goes through rigorous quality control at each stage to ensure every jacket baring the Barbour name is fit for purpose.
Over in the customer service department a team of 18 skilled workers are dedicated to repairs, reproofing, altering and re-waxing old jackets that can be sent back at any time, no matter how old the garment – some over 50 years old have been known to be sent in for repair. Often a Barbour jacket has been passed down through generations and holds great sentimental value, or has simply been put through its paces on a farm, but no job is too big for the hardworking team who repair anything from a worn cuff to a badly ripped jacket.
There's never a dull moment in the customer service department with the keys to St James's Palace, fox teeth, love letters, money and even sheep's tails just some of the items found in pockets of jackets sent in for repair over the years. Even the Royal family have sent in jackets for repair! Repairs can take anything from five minutes to five hours, with around 14,000 jackets sent in every year.
Re-waxing jackets (pictured left) takes around 15 minutes per garment, first warming the jackets on heated tables before a petroleum-based wax is applied, left to dry, then the excess wiped off. The jacket is then hung for a few hours to completely cool down before it's folded, inspected and repackaged ready to be sent back to its owner, fully waterproofed.
Barbour jackets have evolved over the years, with some of the first made without hoods as most men wore flat caps in those days. In 1932 lobster clips were invented to enable wearers to fasten their coats without having to remove their gloves, and later jackets even become tailored to motorbike use thanks to John Barbour's grandson, keen motorcyclist Duncan Barbour. Today the Barbour range includes around 500 styles, with two seasonal ranges launched every year. Though the wax jacket hasn't been forgotten and is still at the very heart of the brand, produced in its classic form and in a wide variety of fashionable styles for both men and women, keeping John Barbour's original vision very much alive to this day.
Visit www.barbour.co.uk to find out more and to browse the full range.
By Natalie Crofts