Barbour is one of those labels which has such a strong image that it’s following is almost cult-like. Always known as the countryman’s go-to, the olive waxed jackets have now left the fields and farmers to make their way to the streets of London and stages of Glastonbury. However Barbour has never forgotten where it came from, holding onto it’s rural heritage with a pride that makes us understand why it’s such an iconic brand. We all know and recognise the classic Barbour jacket with it’s multitude of pockets, linings and add-ons, but little is known about it’s sister sub-brand, Barbour International.
Barbour International wasn’t created until 1936, 40 years after the founding of Barbour in South Shields. At this point John Barbour’s Grandson had taken over the reigns of the company, and as a keen motorcyclist Duncan Barbour introduced the first motorcycle range. Their first one piece waxed suit was the A1, which ended up being adapted for military use in the 40s and eventually was turned into a trouser and jacket combo that became standard issue for Britain’s submariners. Barbour International has always been about authentic motorcycle wear, even when dabbling in military uniforms, and by the 50s many civilians had become fans of the gear. Phillip Vincent was known as the ‘Maker of the World’s Fastest Standard Motorcycle’ and in the 50s the Vincent Owners Club partnered with Barbour International for the club’s ‘uniform’. To mark the collaboration between the two businesses, the International jacket was dyed black. This was the source of inspiration for it’s now iconic black and yellow badge.
The International Six Day Trial is as much a part of the brand’s identity and the olive green wax is to Barbour Heritage. The motorcycle competition runs in their blood, with virtually every British international racing team adorning a Barbour suit over 40 years. One of the most famous riders to adopt the suit was the American actor, Steve McQueen. An avid biker, McQueen and the US team stopped by London on their way to the 64′ Trials held in East Germany, to pick up a Barbour International suit for each member of the team. It became the choice of uniform for many riders, with nearly 70% off all racers in the competition wearing it one year. So the biking heritage is pure and authentic for these guys, and really is the home to the original biking jacket.
Celebrating 75 years back in 2011, Barbour International has gone beyond the uniforms and suits to become a strong competitor for it’s sister company in outerwear. The collection ranges from lightweight bomber jackets to quilted coats and over the years has expanded to introduce a full range of lifestyle clothing. The iconic logo remains from the original jackets along with the distinctive slanted left breast pocket – which was designed for easy access to maps and trial cards – but with the old comes the new. The Barbour International collection sticks to it’s roots of being functional but does it in a way that remains stylish and fashion-forward.