Closet Constructor: Is This the End for Barbour’s Iconic Waxed Jacket?

Dissecting spring outerwear, one menswear icon at a time

March 15, 2024 12:09 pm
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Is the Barbour outdated? We discuss in this week's Closet Constructor.

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Welcome to Closet Constructor, a weekly series where I (a style editor) help you (a well-meaning person who likes clothes) discover new, interesting and affordable ways to really start dressin’.

A few months ago, I had the rare and distinct pleasure of discussing outerwear with an InsideHook colleague, a super smart guy with (equally impressive) a totally locked-in sense of style. When the topic turned to our respective plans for the inevitable warmer, wetter weather, said coworker let it spill that, while he was enamored with the specific style, he wouldn’t dare consider the jacket I suggested he might invest in. “I just feel like no one actually wears that kind of stuff anymore,” I remember him confessing.

The “that kind of stuff” in question was, perhaps not so obviously, the waxed hunting jacket, a style arguably still championed by and associated with British heritage brand Barbour. A century-old outerwear, and a fetishized piece of British kit if there ever was one, the Barbour has been garb for kings (or queens) and ‘fit gods for decades, and along with names like Burberry, remains the stuff of menswear legend. It’s long been a requisite style recommendation for soggy conditions — we’re big fans of Flint and Tinder’s copycat Hudson Jacket, and I’ve been relying on my L.L. Bean Upland Jacket for a few years now.

This anecdotal evidence that the north star of transitional outwear might have faded has left me pondering if the Barbour still has a place in 2024’s menswear lineup. After all, despite some false fall associations, a trusty weather-resistant joint should be at the top of your cop list for spring, right up there with a pair of SL72s (don’t say we didn’t warn you) and whatever freak shit EighteenEast currently has cooking.

At quick glance, the waxed hunting jacket does admittedly seem maligned with ‘fit checks and baggy Acne Jeans; it’s a jacket originally designed for activities with off-the-charts stuffiness levels, like sport hunting pheasants or banking. It’s a talisman of a Cambridge-coded aesthetic that’s played second (or third, or fourth) fiddle to dreams of Our Legacy Camion Boots and a Topenga loft with floor-to-ceiling windows for some time now. (Both overlap when it comes to owning Land Rovers, though.)

Such is the trend cycle. And who am I to deny a new, wide-eye world of technically succinct Arc’teryx joints? But here is where, much like I did with my aforementioned coworker, I will challenge your desire to say tata to the Barbour.

Consider what made Barbour so functional, and by extension popular, that it was all but sartorial jurisprudence to live in the jacket from March to May for decades. It’s a Carhartt-esque workhorse the wet of spring, and a jawn that does what few can — bridge the gap between dressy and casually rugged. Unlike your cursed All Saints bomber (burn immediately please), a waxed hunting jacket looks just as at home over your big-boy chino suit as it does your daily New Balance-denim uniform, and similarly, doesn’t project ick in the same way a polyester slicker does. It’s a traditionally a jacket for grown-ups and serious guys, one that projects put-togetherness regardless of how many strawberry daiquiris you consumed at last night’s office-sanctioned happy hour.

But that doesn’t mean it has to be stuffy. Workwear revolutionaries — Brendan Babenzian chief among that, in his facilities at both Noah and J.Crew — have been slowly modernizing Barbour with sick collabs and looser styling. These examples of steezing up your spring look are, along with leaps and bounds internally in diversifying cuts and fits, a blueprint forward for reaping all the Barbour benefits this spring without looking like you unironically use the phrase “old money”.

I am physically incapable of demanding that you buy clothes that fit you one more time, so instead, I go with the similarly generic “get flexy with it.” If you’re committing to the cop, consider snagging a color or style other than the drab olive Bedale — a poppy denim joint or one of the newer Japanese-market short jackets should help distance you from any snobbery allegations. If you’re already leaning on old faithful, bust out the wavy guns. Layer an irreverent hoodie, commit to some distressed chinos, swap out your wellies for a pair of ultra-technical outdoor footwear. Break some rules in a jacket that wrote all of ’em. Or just buy something GORE-TEX.

If you’re in need of further Barbour binspo, keep scrolling. Otherwise, see you out there, fellow wannabe sheep farmers.

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