Ok, so you’ve started tucking your shirt. Then maybe you have went from flip flops to Sperrys, and then from boat shoes at your first fraternity formal in your frosh year to hard soled captoes your senior year. A few Golden Fleece polos to replace those crappy American Eagles you used to wear in high school? Check. Knowing what “O-C-B-D” stands for? Yup. Having more of those “O-C-B-D”s in your closet than t-shirts? Nice.
Now you’ve got the basics down, you can move to the other necessities. How is your outerwear game? I see you’ve got your blue blazer from pledging. And that rain shell for the thunderstorms you encountered down in Panama last SB. But how about a few all around coats for daily wear? Say, a light breathable one for the Autumn evenings and a heavy one for the big cool down that comes after Fall Break?
Perhaps you already know of Barbour. If you attend a preppy universities, like Georgetown where you have that new Barbour storefront on M street, then you are very much aware of the popularity of Barbour coats, vests, and tattersall shirts that can be as common as Rainbow flip flops are to those who go to less dressy colleges. I grew up in a part of the South that resembled the latter, having only learned of Barbour and their legendary wax coats during my Trad grooming and never noticing Barbours adorning the general student body at my school.
Founded in 1894 by John Barbour, J. Barbour and Sons Ltd (or simply, Barbour) imported oiled cloth out of their South Shield home in England. For our purposes, a Barbour jacket represents the exemplar of Trad and Prep, symbolizing what our foggy older brothers passed down to their younger American WASPs. Thus, owning the musky thornproof oiled coat allows you to write in the last culminating chapters of your sartorial memoir.
Favored and warranted by the Royal Family (see the royal insignias on the label in the title photo), a Barbour coat is one of those rare articles of clothing that will, literally, last you a lifetime. And I throw that phase around often since it alludes to the guiding principles of this blog, but take a quick internet search and you can find the numerous accounts of happy Barbour owners rewaxing their forty something year old jackets for the umpteenth time. Or grateful Sons inheriting their Fathers’ coats with lingering wafts of whiskey and cigar aromas, purchased during His fraternity days and now worn again by the Legacy on his way to class across the quad in the chilly morning air.
A classic English scene: The young royal family in their Barbours and Wellingtons.
So valuable is Barbour in the young man’s stock that I consider it amongst the Holy Trad Trinity (yup, something I made up just now): J.Press, Barbour, and Alden. Once you’ve acquired the prized cattle from each coveted herd, you become something I affectionately call a GMP, short for God Mode Prep (do you even have to ask?) A GMP is rare outside the upper crust, and by simply wearing items from the Holy Trinity puts you at a level transcending even the preppiest frat brahskis who think they’re hot shit with their Vineyard Vines fleece vests and nanny red chinos from Dockers. Let the so-called preps with their North Face fleeces go mudding at the trail beside Waffle House while you and your GMP boys fly up to your Little’s Adirondack getaway for a game hunt. Does that paint enough imagery for you? Notice how I haven’t hyperlinked the last spirit of the Holy Trinity listed above; I do not own any Alden shoes yet. I have to settle for…Allen Edmonds and Cole Haan…*shudders*. So even yours truely isn’t a GMP just yet. And I humbly offer myself to the rest of you commoners as we beg for scraps from the Almighty Holy Trinity Lords of Tradom.
Jesus he can’t really be that elitist right? Right. Back to actual advice: As hinted in the opening, a Barbour wax coat should be left towards the end of your shopping needs if you are on a budget supplied by school loans and waiting tips, much like the rest of us. They are extremely expensive at full price, with a Beaufort model fetching for $400. Which is why I recommend in Part II that you start with a Liddesdale. Around the end of winter they can be found at a good discount, sometimes around $90 from the original $180. Or per the usual money saving advice you can buy used on eBay. I was able to get mine for around $60 including shipping from a UK seller, and I’d almost endorse this way because you can likely score a vintage Made in England Liddy, considering the newer collections are made elsewhere. When layered with a tattersall and a thick Shetland, you’ll easily pass off as a Country Gentleman. I’d recommend olive first, and down the road you can get a navy.
Myself, I can finally say that I have neared the end of my clothing journey gathering all of the basics and intermediaries, that I can indeed start thinking about GMP level stuff. Nanny reds? Check. A staple navy suit? Set me back a few paychecks, but check. Now time for me to chase after the big tuna: the Barbour waxed cotton coat.
The most popular and traditional models are the Beaufort and the Bedale. Muffy has an informative article comparing the two. Personally, for a young man willing to invest in a second skin, I say go for the mid-length Beaufort model. Longer than the Bedale, which is cut for equestrian riding, the Beau and the Liddy look more masculine and are long enough to wear over a blazer or sport coat, which is entirely appropriate if you don’t want to go the befitting route of a proper overcoat. It’s actually common for London business men to pair their power suits with a Beaufort, as if to say “meeting with the client then taking off early to ride up to Father’s countryside estate before dinner”.
What I also like about the Beau are the little details, like the game pocket at the back, where you can sneak in a flask or two for the football game when not carrying hunting supplies or a dead pheasant. Or the inner tartan extending to the hem, whereas the Bedale has nylon on the bottom third. Both coats and numerous other Barbour models allow for accessories like inner linings and hoods.
Coming in two sub models, the Classic Beaufort and the regular sport edition Beaufort. The Classic only comes in Olive and uses Skyoil wax while the regular Beaufort comes in novelty colors like Sage and Navy and uses thornproof wax. Otherwise there is no difference in fitting or construction. However, since they use different waxes, some say that the Classic Beaufort does not age as well as the sporty Beaufort, and the Classic tends to fade while the Regular grows a better sheen. This is unconfirmed to me since I have just started wearing my new Beau and can report back in the coming years.
Color, Sizing, and Maintenance
Between the two Classic and Regular sub models, I’d recommend the sporty Beaufort in color Sage because I like the deep ink-like appearance. I would stay way from the Black and keep Navy to your Liddy. If not Sage, then Olive or Rustic would look nice. Keep to these earthy tones to live up the archetype of a Barbour coat.
Sizing wise, Barbour coats can come in heritage and contemporary fitting (slim) or classic fitting (regular). Currently, the Beaufort comes in classic fitting. If you live in frigid Maine and will wear your coat over layers, go ahead and get your true chest size. But if you are like me and will wear the jacket with a simple OCBD the majority of the time, you can size down one if you prefer a slimmer look. Barbours offer a chest tolerance of 9-10 inches, whereas most other makers offer 8 inches. So you’re working with an extra inch or so. My usual chest size is 42, and a 40 fit perfect without being too tight. Even pairing a blazer or a Shaggy Dog underneath wasn’t bad at all.
I’d reference this Buyer’s Guide for a wealth of information. Additionally, I’d go to your local Orvis or traditional men’s shop to try it on yourself.
You can alter the coat but I’d send it directly to Barbour. If you affect the waterproofing by a 3rd party you will void the warranty. And the tailoring costs can run high so keep that in mind.
Take effort and precaution in caring for your wax coat, so it really can last a lifetime and be given to your eldest son on his way to freshman year. Send it to Barbour to rewax every few years, depending on use, or to New England Reproofers, who are highly regarded and based right out of New Hampshire along with Barbour’s US headquarters. You can also rewax yourself and there are plenty of guides offered online. I’d try not to sit in the car with your Barbour on for long periods of time, opting to laying or hanging it, nor leave it in the car on a hot day since the wax can potentially melt off (not that you need a heavy coat in the summer anyway). Use a cedar hanger to remove moisture and odor.
Never have the coat dry cleaned or machine washed. You will strip the wax. You can wipe off mud stains with a cold damp cloth.
Now the fun part: how to buy a Barbour?
As previously mentioned, a Beaufort costs $400 brand new. But I was able to get mine using some creativity with Rule #10.
The end of winter brings clearance sales. The Beaufort will rarely go on sale, but sometimes a large department store will discount them because they buy their quantity through wholesale. On a whim one evening this past January, I entered a search and found a Beaufort at Bloomingdales for $199.50. Pretty damn cheap for a Beau and I’ve never seen them go lower. Yes, $200 is still a lot for the typical college student, at least for me anyway, but once you realize you’re making an investment that is damn functional and stylish, you tend to let yourself splurge on this one. But at that price, chances are it will be in limited size and color, as was the case for me. Bloomingdales didn’t have my size and the only color left was black which I do not like. So instead of crying and starting a private browsing tab to search for porn and masturbate myself to sleep, here is what I did:
Step 1) Even if they still hold a product at full price, many large department stores will price match. I used Nordstrom, whom I am very dedicated to for their awesome customer service.
Step 2) Call their customer service line and ask to price match. The representative will just need proof and you can redirect them to the offer.
Step 3) Boom. Purchased a brand new Beaufort for under $200 with free shipping too, which Nordstrom automatically gives you. I was even able to access their whole inventory and bought the size and color I wanted. Department stores will usually never fight you on such a discount because they want to keep you a happy duckling, especially if competing with a competitor like how Nordstrom beat out Bloomingdales in this case.
And that’s how I got my brand new Beaufort for half the price! What I could’ve done to save even more beer money was combine with the Craigslist Gift Card method, but I didn’t want to waste the opportunity since I didn’t know how long the Bloom’s sale would last, and if I could even find a Nord’s gift card in time. Oh well, there’s a freebie from me for your own cost saving use.
You can use the above techniques to score awesome savings for anything. I’ve done it numerous times. See, you can be a GMP and poor at the same time!