2019 sees Barbour celebrate their 125th anniversary, a significant milestone in the company’s history. In commemoration of this, we’re taking a look back in time to see how it all began.
First generation of Barbour
Founded by Scottish born John Barbour in 1894, the first store was opened in South Shields, a rapidly growing port on the River Tyne in the North east of England. Initially selling oilskins and other garments to protect from the worst of the North Sea weather, this soon extended to farmers, labourers and shepherds.
Second generation of Barbour
It was Malcolm Barbour, John Barbour’s son, who introduced the first Barbour catalogue in 1908 and from this there were two major developments. Firstly, it was within this catalogue that the Beacon, now so famously synonymous with Barbour, was introduced and it’s easy to understand why when it stood so proudly at the mouth of the Tyne guiding vessels in and out of the port.
Secondly, it was this 12 page catalogue that allowed Malcolm Barbour to expand the business worldwide with orders coming in from as far as Chile, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the Falkland Islands.
Third generation of Barbour
The Barbour International suit – such an iconic and loved style – was introduced by Duncan Barbour, Malcolm Barbour’s son. A keen motorcyclist himself, Duncan developed the motorcycle suit for the 1936 International six day trials event. From this Barbour International became a market leader in motorcycle clothing from the late 1930s to the 1970s. In 1964 Steve McQueen himself wore a Barbour International suit as a member of the US team at the 1964 ISDT in East Germany.
The Ursula suit, which was standard issue for all submariners for the duration of the Second World War, was developed by Barbour and was based on the International suit. Captain Phillips, the commander of HM Ursula requested Barbour to create a prototype jacket and trousers from the one piece International that had impressed him so much. His navigating officer Lieutenant Lakin, a keen motorcyclist had worn his Barbour International suit and demonstrated its weather resistance qualities when he remained dry despite Captain Philips turning a fire hose on him!
Fourth generation of Barbour
John Barbour joined the business in 1964 and was responsible for designing the iconic Durham jacket and re-introducing the company to Countrywear. Upon his untimely death, John’s wife, Margaret Barbour stepped in and continued the family business.
Taking inspiration from styles on the continent, Dame Margret Barbour who was knighted in 2001, made Barbour a household name with the introduction of the classic Bedale, Beaufort and Border Wax jackets in 1980. And she didn’t stop there receiving three Royal Warrants, 1974 from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, 1982 from HM The Queen and in 1987, HRH The Prince of Wales.
Fifth generation of Barbour
Helen Barbour, daughter of Dame Margaret Barbour and John Barbour, is now working alongside her mother, as Vice-Chairman. Together, with tartan specialists Kinloch Anderson they introduced the Barbour Classic tartan in 1998 and the Dress Tartan in 2002. Anderson discovered that the Barbour family originated from the Ayrshire district in Scotland and it was decided that the tartan ‘sett’ for the exclusive tartans should be based on the Ayrshire District tartan.
Today Barbour have a customer base all around the world. They are an award winning lifestyle brand worn by Royalty and a broad range of celebrities including The Duchess of Cambridge, The Duchess of Sussex, Daniel Craig and David Beckham. They are also the go to brand for festival goers being worn by the likes of Alexa Chung and Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys.