Jeremy Hackett, the man behind Hackettâ€”a brand that, by copying and improving upon English classics, is in many ways the British equivalent of Ralph Laurenâ€”waxes eloquent about the time he discovered the virtues of a Barbour jacket:
When I opened my first shop in London in 1983, I sold â€” as one magazine kindly put it â€” dead men’s clothes. Today they are known as vintage, and some items can fetch exorbitant prices. Once, on one of my frequent forays to Portobello Market, I chanced upon an ancient, patched-up Barbour jacket. I bought it and put it in the window, where it sold within minutes at a price not far from what it cost new. The attraction, I realized, was precisely that it was worn. In no time at all, no self-respecting Sloane Ranger would be seen without this distinctive olive green coat. Young army officers wore them as part of their mufti, teamed with straw-colored corduroys, suede shoes and red socks. Aspiring bankers adopted the Barbour, and it also became de rigueur over black tie. It was a way of airing your country pedigree, though you may have actually lived in a two-up, two-down in Fulham.
It spoke of damp dogs sleeping on tartan coat linings in the back of battered Land Rovers, of point-to-points and Badminton Horse Trials, all things dear to an Englishman. I recently retrieved my old Beaufort Barbour â€” with its oily texture, brown corduroy collar and brass zipper as strong as a railway line â€” from the attic, where it had lain neglected for nearly 20 years. Suddenly, I was filled with nostalgia for the countryside. So, despite not owning a large pile in the shires, I shall wear my shabby Barbour the next time I go shopping on Sloane Street â€” but I think I’ll leave my green wellies in the Land Rover.