Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Barbour Beaufort Jacket, men's stuff part one

If you’re an ex-military guy, you probably had an old comfortable field jacket or parka that you miss. The good news is that you can get that feeling back with a Barbour Beaufort Jacket. A Barbour is comfortable, durable, and good layering against the cold.

In the U.S., unless you’re a dog person or a horse person, chances are you haven’t been exposed to Barbour. At most you may have read an online reference to Barbour by someone trying to ape English style or behavior.

For the untutored, Barbour is a Brit clothing outfit best known for its wax jackets, in particular the Beaufort Jacket. (Think Jaeger LeCoultre and how it’s synonymous for its Reverso Watch.) The company has a history dating back to the 1890s and had a surge in popularity in the 1980s when prep hit its heyday. Thanks to the internet and its availability through Orvis, Barbour is also now going through a resurgence of sorts.

The Barbour Beaufort is a good field jacket and casual overcoat. Most men will take an instant love to it. What it is not, regardless of what some people on the internet tell you, is an entrance to high society or some other lofty perch. I have had maitre d’s and hotel clerks sniff down at my trusty Sylkoil Beaufort, completely unaware they were supposed to have been impressed at my good taste and breeding.

The claim to the Barbour fashionable-elite-standing comes from the fact that it holds three Royal Warrants (Her Majesty the Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, & The Prince of Wales). The present CEO family member, Margaret Barbour, has also been named a Dame Commander of the order of the British Empire. So if you’re an anglophile, there you go.

Sylkoil vs. Egyptian Cotton

The Barbour Beaufort Jacket comes in several materials, but I will limit my discussion to the two waxed finish materials: Sylkoil (the Classic Beaufort Jacket)& Waxed Egyptian cotton (the Beaufort Original Jacket).

My old Barbour is a Sylkoil Classic Beaufort Jacket -pictured right. It is the darker (green) color of the two (almost brown), and is supposed to have been the original material used by John Barbour at the turn of the century. It reminds me of an Army Parka or one of the old Army OD Green field jackets. Since I intended it for my yearly visits to New England, I deliberately bought it too big. This allowed for comfortable movement while wearing heavy layering, such as a liner and a heavy sweater. After breaking it in, I sent the jacket to Barbour (in New Hampshire), and had the sleeves taken in by 3 centimeters. At the same time I had leather lining put on the cuffs, pockets and bottom of the coat to prevent fraying.

A word of caution on sending in your jacket to Barbour, expect a long delay. These guys aren’t quick. I sent it in during late spring of that year, and got it back in September but only after I had the Orvis clerk contact her Barbour rep about it. When I got it back, it had a “Rush” tag on it. I’m sure the tag was an attempt at humor.

As I had already worn the jacket for a season, I also had Barbour re-wax it, which brings me to the next item: it is a waxed jacket.

Some people, quite understandably, may not care for the idea of wearing an article of clothing that has wax on it. A waxed jacket also has its own distinctive smell which people may not care for. For those reasons the waxed Beaufort will never replace the LL Bean Parka with the U.S. population.

The wax also causes permanent creases in the material which will eventually become stress tears; and the wax wears out with time. As a result the jacket has to be re-waxed periodically. Barbour recommends the entire jacket be re-waxed once a year, however admits each individual may differ. They also recommend that touch ups be applied as dry spots appear.

If you’re going to have your jacket altered, make sure you wear it for a season before having the work done. The wax creases will shorten the length of the sleeves and alter the drape of the jacket.

In addition to having the factory do it, I have also re-waxed the jacket myself. The key is to it is: a) not make a mess – clean as you go, and b) allow plenty of time for the jacket to dry. Barbour sells its own wax tins for this purpose, and provides step by step instructions for the process.

Obviously not everyone will want to bother with a jacket needing this type of maintenance. (Some owners never bother with re-waxing and are content to lose the proofing. You can identify them by the faded appearance of the jacket and the lack of a wax shine.)

I originally chose the Sylkoil version of the jacket because it looked more like a field jacket. It felt more broken in from the start and draped better. I also found the darker color more masculine.

This year, I bought a second Beaufort, this time in waxed Egyptian cotton-pictured left. The "Beaufort Original" version is a brighter green and appears shinier from the start. It has a more “dressy” and modern (urban) appearance. It looks like a green raincoat. It also feels stiffer than the sylkoil version when new.
I intend to use it for business casual dress. I did not buy it over-sized, but I did buy the matching hood and liner.

This version is what most people think of when they think of a Barbour Beaufort.

In closing, the Barbour Beaufort may come with a small Barbour lapel-badge-pin in the pocket. This is a nod for people who need legible clothing. Owners with this need can remove the lapel-badge from the pocket and pin it to the corduroy lapel. This announces to the world that they are indeed wearing a Barbour Jacket.

Don’t wear the pin.

(For related content read "How to Wax your Barbour Beaufort Jacket," post dated November 15, 2007. It gives step by step insructions on how to wax your jacket, along with helpful tips.)


Breaking in my second Beaufort
by a geyser at Yellowstone
Photo credit, The Little Woman


Susan said...

I also love my Barbour jacket - the Moorland, with a snap-in liner that I sometimes wear alone - in addition to my quilts. Nothing beats them for walking the dog or just tooling around town. When you spy someone else wearing a Barbour, it's almost like a secret club, accompanied by knowing smiles and a nodded acknowledgement. (P.S We live about 1.5 hrs from Barbour's US HQ in NH, where they have a factory shop, should one be in the area.)

John Pacheco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I have a rather rare barbour
Mark Phillips riding jacket that I have been wearing for almost a decade now, and it has seen Burma (gets cold in the hills), Mongolia, plenty of Southern and Eastern Africa (perfect for hunting as well as riding - especially if you are stuck on a Mopane tree - cousin in a leaf patterned gore-tex froze his arse off.

Thomas von Seelen, Namibia

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the detailed analysis. I also love the Barbours and have a couple in the old waxed finish. Since you have both the Sylkoil/Classic finish and the older Egyptian cotton finish, which do you like better after having used them both for some time?


Atlanta, GA

John Pacheco said...

Atlanta, GA

I’m partial to my old Sylkoil one, but as it gets older, it is getting harder to keep it clean. I wasn’t completely joking when I wrote that “I have had maitre d’s and hotel clerks sniff down at my trusty Sylkoil Beaufort, completely unaware they were supposed to have been impressed at my good taste and breeding.” As a result my guess is that the Egyptian cotton Beaufort Original version is probably a better fit for most people (read American), especially if they intend to wear it for business casual and/or are concerned about the wax smell.

Anonymous said...

I just got my second Barbour, A Beufort Original and I love it. My first jacket was a Bedale, that lasted for ten years, and is still going fine. i love the look and the smell of these wonderful jackets. Anyhow, thank you for the great and interesting review John. (Mark, Great Britain)

John Pacheco said...

Thanks Mark of Great Britain- A man can never own too many Barbour Jackets or fine time pieces. (Even in these trying economic times.)

Ian said...

Hello John,

I am having a bit of trouble with the smell of my Barbour Beaufort. It was a hand-me-down from my father. The problem is it smells musty. I can't seem to think this is the wax smell you've talked about. Do you have any ideas on how to diminish or even eliminate the stench? I personally do not mind but I do find my friends distancing themselves from me whenever I choose to wear it. Could Barbour help with the odor? Also could you further the information on the Barbour facility to me because I'd like to extend the arm length and might as well get it rewaxed?



John Pacheco said...

For my response to your question, please to to:


John P.

Anonymous said...

I grew up near to the factory in South Shields Uk where they have the best factory shop in the world. I have far too many Barbouyrs as a result and love them all

Bernie Hepplewhite

Anonymous said...

May I just say that these jackets in my opinion only, really do not look that nice when new. I hate the newness residue of the wax and the lack of creases. Which is quite ironic really for a piece of clothing! My recent purchase of a Beaufort developed a snag in the cloth, so I returned it for a replacement and I am starting again to make it look nice in the bad weather in Britain. I waited over 8 weeks for a replacement. When I sent it back to Barbour UK I purchased a new Bedale Sylkoil (early December, 2009). We have horses on a farm, and I am glad to say that firstly, its kept me dry over the last few months (quite a bad winter in South Wales, UK). But oh my word, it now looks so worn and beautiful! Its been soaked in rain and mud - and I love the look of it with its lovely creases from my body. NOW IT LOOKS COOL! Hope I can now work my Beaufort in, so to speak!

Regards again.


Anonymous said...

Great Blog, I've worn Barbour since around 1991 and love them. I'm on my second Northumbria now (1995) and just wearing in. Cheers, Tony Nottingham UK.

Jakob said...

Thank you, so nicely written. I am no army guy, but I KNEW I had to get a Beaufort Classic. After stalling for years I finally bought one, and am I very happy with it. I am going read your post on waxing too.

No one I know has a jacket anything like this, and no, I don't wear the pin. :-)

I don't know why I love it so much, but it is a pure joy just to wear it. I love the wax btw.

Anonymous said...

hi john, thanks for your informative posts on Barbour, especially on how to apply the wax, really helpful!
i am trying to decide between the Classic Barbour Beaufort (Sykoil) and the non-Classic Beufort, but really struggling as seems to be different information on your blog versus styleforum and others.
some claim the non-Classic version (non Sykoil) builds a more interesting character and patina over time, while you seem to suggest the Sykoil version develops better patina..

could you kindly offer any more insight into the differences between the 2 Beauforts. Sadly I can only have one version!

thank you

John Pacheco said...

Regarding trying to decide between the Sylkoil and the Beaufort Original. I think most people would be happier with the Beaufort Original (the non-Sylkoil offering). It’s what most people think of when they think of a Barbour, and more urban in appearance (think business casual). My preference for my Sylkoil is that it reminds me of an old Army parka or OD green field jacket. However for business casual I wear my Beaufort Original. I hope that helps.

Matt said...

Hello, I too am thinking of sending a coat in for some alterations.

Would you be kind enough to post some photos of the leather trim additions?

How have they worn the last few seasons?

Were you satisfied with the Barbour alterations department? Would say a local tailor be able to take in the sleeves?

Thanks very much


John Pacheco said...

Regarding the alterations. I was satisfied with them. They took off precisely what I asked them to take off, and the work was satisfactory. The lining has not frayed over the years and has done an adequate job of protecting the end sleeves.
Although I will not take a photo (time constraints), the look professionally done, dark brown in color, thin, and are not "obvious." Only a someone familiar with Barbour Beauforts would know the alterations had been done.
In short, I would recommend them if you do need an alteration.
Regards, JP
PS- sorry for the late response.

M. said...

Dear John,

Barbour states there is really no difference between the Beaufort and the Classic Beaufort other than the finish. And that the Classic Beaufort in Olive is the original jacket which has been along for many years, the Beaufort (with the thornproof finish) is the most recent jacket which was only introduced in the 1990’s.

Now, I am a country fellow myself (shooting, stalking and such) and I have to choose between the Beaufort and the Classic Beaufort. I do not want to wear it in an urban settings obviously, and I would like mine to develop a better patina over time.

You own the Beaufort and the Classic Beaufort. In your experience, which is better suited for the countryside and develops a better patina over time?



John Pacheco said...

It’s a question of personal taste, and I would strongly advise going to an Orvis store (or any other store that has both jackets side-by-side) and checking both of them out in person. As the jacket is going to last you a long time, it’s worth a road trip.
However, if pressed, I would say the Sylkoil (Classic Beaufort) would be a better fit for a “country fellow,” as it resembles an old Army OD Green Field Jacket. A “preppy,” guy would probably prefer the Beaufort Original Jacket as it’s what people think of when they think of a Barbour. Of course the names, Classic vs. Original, aren’t helpful. In my opinion the names are reversed. Perhaps they should rename them after the year introduces, like 1900 vs. 1980.

Anonymous said...

hi! both of the jackets are waterproof right?

John Pacheco said...

Hi Anonymous,
Yes both jackets are waterproof provided they have their wax coating.
John P.

Anonymous said...

Regarding smelly Barbour Beaufort jackets, I bought mine (a pre 2004 A155 model) in unworn condition for a tenth of retail price at an open air sale about five years ago. I quickly discovered the reason for my bargain. It bore a sour petro-chemical stench so potent that the jacket was kept in the garage for three years. As an alternative to binning the thing I defied Barbours instructions and hand washed the jacket with a splash of non-bio detergent in lukewarm water for ten minutes, rinsed twice, let dry naturally then restored a creaseless waxed finish with a hair drier.
I'm pleased to report that the jacket is now odour free, regularly used and amply waterproof!

Oliver said...

In response to comment by M. "And that the Classic Beaufort in Olive is the original jacket which has been along for many years, the Beaufort (with the thornproof finish) is the most recent jacket which was only introduced in the 1990’s."

I'm confused now. I emailed Barbour about this and they said the Thornproof is the original wax dressing. So the classic is the newer version, I guess?

Also to OP, when the thornproof has been used for many years (as I assume yours has now) and loses its shine, does it look rather similar to the Sylkoil? What are the differences and which do you think looks better after being well-worn?