Barbour celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, a significant milestone for this most British of brands. For more than a century, the Barbour family has skilfully combined innovation and growth, with authenticity and heritage guiding the company from its modest beginnings in 1894 to the global lifestyle brand it is today.
Each member of the Barbour family has made a contribution to the business. In South Shields in the North East of England, founder John Barbour began supplying oilskins to protect the growing community of mariners from the worst of the weather. In 1908, John’s son, Malcolm Barbour, introduced the first 12-page Barbour mail-order catalogue, expanding the business internationally. In 1936, Malcolm’s son, Duncan Barbour, created the wax cotton International motorcycle suit, which was worn by virtually every rider on the International Six Day Trials circuit from the 1950s to the 1970s, including actor Steve McQueen in 1964.
Before his untimely death in 1968, John Barbour re-introduced the company to country clothing. His widow Margaret subsequently took over the reins and in 1980 designed the Bedale and Beaufort waxed cotton jackets that went on to make Barbour a household name. The jackets remain best sellers – and are still made in the Barbour factory in South Shields.
Barbour has also earned the royal seal of approval. Margaret, who was made a dame in 2001, holds three Royal Warrants, from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh (1974), from HM The Queen (1982) and from HRH The Prince of Wales (1987). In 1988, Dame Margaret established the Barbour Trust (now Barbour Foundation) to support charitable causes and, to date, over £13.1m has been donated to worthwhile causes.
Dame Margaret’s daughter Helen became Vice Chairman of Barbour in 1997. Together with tartan specialists, Kinloch Anderson, she was responsible for introducing the brand’s exclusive tartans in the late 1990s and in 2011 introduced a new sporting collection to reinforce Barbour’s country credentials.
Sold in more than 40 countries worldwide, Barbour is worn all year round and has an urban as well as a country following.
Today, Barbour is an award-winning lifestyle brand with a wardrobe of stylish, functional clothes, footwear and accessories for men, women and children. Sold in more than 40 countries worldwide, Barbour is worn all year round and has an urban as well as country following. Embracing the company’s Britishness, customers from all around the world enjoy the Barbour Way of Life: shopping, spending time with the family, attending musical festivals or simply walking their dogs.
Dogs, incidentally, have always been synonymous with Barbour. A dog owner herself, Helen Barbour has been instrumental in introducing a range of dog products, including coats, collars, leads, beds and even a dog cologne. Dogs now have their own Instagram channel @Barbourdogs and in 2017, Barbour launched a unique dog loyalty scheme, ‘It’s a Barbour Dog’s Life’, in which customers provide information on their dogs to receive exclusive dog content, birthday messages and invitations to dog-friendly events.
Undoubtedly, the key to this most British of brands’ success is that its founding principles of quality, durability, attention to detail and fitness for purpose remain as relevant today as they were 125 years ago.
BARBOUR Simonside, South Shields, Tyne & Wear, NE34 9PD +44 (0)1914 274210