Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Barbour: An Appreciation


(Key New England wardrobe: Beloved Barbour Beaufort, Boston Red Sox cap and yellow slicker)

The other day I had a bit of a whinge about some bygone (or soon to be bygone) products and companies that I'll miss. From favorite old department stores to less than well-loved airlines, it's still hard sometimes to say goodbye to things we've grown accustomed to. Let's consider this post the anti-whinge...an appreciation of something I love and that has always provided me with the utmost protection. Further, I am pleased to say we are celebrating only the first of many milestones along our walk down life's highway, our 10th anniversary. Yes, kind reader(s), this is a celebration of my BBB...Beloved Barbour Beaufort.

I remember unwrapping the parcel from the North of England on the day my BBB arrived...the smell of the waxed cotton, the stiffness of the fabric, the little green and gold enameled collar pin that said in clear Arial-ish sans-serif font: BARBOUR. I thought perhaps I'd made a mistake and that this was going to be one of those rigid coats--like a bad jean jacket--that you would always want to wear, but the garment itself would make it no fun to do so. Au contraire, mon ami!!

If you've never had the singular pleasure of breaking in a Barbour, well, it is certainly something to be savoured. Yes, it was a bit stiff for the first couple of wearings, and I fretted mightily over the first few scratches, but like the best sterling silver, Barbour's develop a deep, rich patina by way of all the scratches, folds, and wear. They become like the one pair of jeans in your wardrobe that aren't too loose or too tight and that wear like they were custom made for you. Every wear-line and fade-line becomes part of the essence of the garment.

Now, I can already hear the Gore-Tex fans out there protesting that their garments are lighter, more breathable and more waterproof than my BBB...and everyone has a right to their own opinion. And I have nothing at all against the lovely folks who make and use Gore-Tex, either...but this is about the BBB.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I did once stray from the waxed cotton path over to the synthetic textile path, but I was young and silly, then. Many years ago I'd purchased a parka made of the above-mentioned textile from a well-known Maine retailer and it seemed fine, certainly it was lighter-weight than my BBB. So along comes a very rainy and sloppy day and the boyfriend decided we should go to the Yankees game--it was April, I think. So because it wasn't all that cool outside, and the parka was a little longer in length, I wore it to the game rather than the BBB. BIG MISTAKE. First off, it wasn't all that waterproof by the end of the afternoon and I was soaked to the skin--and cold. So cold and wet, it turns out, that the only thing that could revive me and render me conscious again was a Double Steak dinner for two (with cottage fries, creamed spinach and a Grey Goose martini) at the original Palm restaurant in NYC. Shortly after, the parka was sent back to the famed Maine retailer and that was the end of my dalliance with non-waxed-cotton outerwear. The BBB was never to be doubted or underestimated again. From October to April, the coat most likely to get the call is the BBB.

I'd imagine that every other Barbour lover out there also has their favorite "model" if you will, but I have to say I'm rather partial to the Beaufort. It's just the right length and has loads of pockets...even hand-warmer pockets lined with soft, cozy moleskin. Delightful. And while I never thought I'd actually use the "game pocket" that runs all the way across the back of the coat, it has proven to be a great place for tucking newspapers or magazines on rainy, slushy days. I'm not sure which model HRH Queen Elizabeth prefers, but it looked like a Beaufort (with brogues and an Hermes scarf) in the movie, The Queen. Brilliant.

Now, obviously I'm not the only one who feels like this. In fact, it was the piece in The Times of London about how Barbour is "back" that got me thinking about my BBB. Here's a link to the full piece "Big, battered and the colour of gunk, the Barbour wax jacket is back. How one heritage brand was reinvented without any brand strategists and without really trying." (I'd argue it never went anywhere, but I won't quibble with the Times.)


From strolling past the Opera Paris to cheering on my Chelsea Blues in London, and from Vienna, Austria to Rochester, Minnesota, the BBB has been part of many of my great memories of these past 10 years, and will be for many years to come.

OH...And in other quick news, I wanted to thank Troy Tinker from the World Famous Lipizzaner show (he's the narrator/emcee) for the kind information he posted as a comment to my Dancing Stallions post. He notes that the Spanish Riding School will be doing 5 performances on the East Coast in 2010, and that there will be links on their website when the dates and venues are announced, so stay tuned! Here's their website again www.lipizzaner.com and as I said, if the show comes to a town near you, do plan to attend. You won't be sorry.

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