I am not often moved to write about clothes, but today is special. Today I bought my first replacement Barbour jacket in 30 years and I have discovered it is just the ticket for the gadget freak.
Foreigners may not appreciate the great British tradition that is Barbour. At the age of 19 I bought my first Barbour suit which was then essential wear for any motorcyclist. The tough waxed-cotton “Thornproof” material kept out the worst that the fickle British climate could deliver. I wore it for a good ten years through hail, storm and snow.
Since 1894 the north-eastern family company, now presided over by Dame Margaret Barbour, has been churning out a range of waxed jackets aimed at the huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ brigade. They wear well and my last buy, a Classic Bedale model is still going strong, if a little scruffy in places, after 30 years. In fact, scruffiness is part of the Barbour legend. An old jacket will often fetch more on the second-hand market than it costs to buy new one.
I was really quite happy shuffling around in my vintage jacket, despite the shiny patches and the odd hole and tear. Even The Queen and other members of the royal family have been seen in off-duty moments sporting coats even scruffier than mine.
There comes a time, though, when such an ancient coat can send the wrong message to the uninitiated: Poor old sod, he can’t afford a new jacket.
New, waxy and geeky
So I decided the time had come to pension off the Bedale, but I will never sell it and will continue to wear it on occasion. This time I went for the slightly bulkier Beaufort in sage green, ideal for blending in to the undergrowth on the odd poachin’ expedition. This is a couple of inches longer than my old one and covers the bottom of a sports jacket or suit jacket.
It also has lots of capacious pockets making it something of a gadget haven. There are two hand-muffler side pockets (lined with a nice fleecy material) and two very large front pockets, with press-stud closure, that will swallow iPhones, Kindles and cameras such as the Nikon 1 with a 30-110mm zoom lens. Alternatively, in the country they are ideal for shotgun cartridges and dead pigeons. Both of these pockets have drain holes for blood. Sadly, however, I can disclose that they are a centimeter too narrow for an iPad (unless next Wednesday brings the mini model).
Mind the pheasants
Round the back is a curious full-length long pocket with zips at either end. In the country I believe it is intended for dead pheasants. In town, though, it holds scarves, caps, gloves, your packed lunch, a photo tripod or even your iPad. Just remember to sit down with caution.
The one thing I don’t like about the new jacket is the inner cuff. On my old Bedale this was an elasticated wrist-band that has done sterling service for all these years. It keeps your jacket or shirt sleeve out of harm’s way in bad weather. The new idea is a nylon cuff with a Velco fastener. Velcro has its place, but not on this jacket. It has to be fastened manually every time the jacket is donned and it is a right old fiddle. I am also pretty sure it will not stand up to 30 years of wear.
The waxy covering of the Barbour material means that new jackets are not at their best until they are at least two years old. In the meantime, the non-sticky wax gets on the fingers and can put smudges on one’s iPad screen. That is precisely why a used one will fetch a premium on eBay.