A History of J Barbour and Sons

The Barbour story began in 1894 in the Market Place in South Shields. Today the 5th generation family owned business remains in the North East, with Barbour's headquarters located in Simonside, South Shields.

Although we source products from around the globe, some of Barbour's classic wax jackets are still manufactured & repaired by hand in the factory in Simonside.

Barbour now has retail stores presence in over 55 countries worldwide including the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Holland, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, New Zealand and Japan.

Collections cater for men, women, children and now even dogs! Broadening out from Barbour’s countrywear roots, today our heritage and lifestyle clothing brand produces clothing that is designed for a full lifestyle wardrobe. As well as jackets and coats, the Barbour wardrobe includes shirts, dresses, knitwear, footwear, accessories and more.

Barbour remains true to its core values as a family business which espouses the unique values of the British Countryside and brings the qualities of wit, grit and glamour to its beautifully functional clothing.


The founder John Barbour opens J Barbour & Sons in 5 Market Place, South Shields


Malcolm Barbour produced the first mail order catalogue. By 1917 the catalogue accounted for almost 75% of Barbour's business including international orders from as far away as Chile, South Africa and Hong Kong.


J Barbour & Sons became J Barbour & Sons Ltd with John Barbour as Chairman and Jack and Malcolm as joint Managing directors


Jack Barbour resigned and Malcolm Barbour was appointed Chairman.


Duncan Barbour, Malcolm’s only son joined the business.


Duncan Barbour, himself a keen motorcyclist introduced a motorcycling range which quickly took off and Barbour suits were worn by virtually every British International team from 1936 to 1977 when Barbour pulled out of the motorcycle clothing market.


Duncan Barbour was called away to war and Malcolm Barbour and Duncan’s wife Nancy took over the running of the business. They developed the Ursula suit which became standard issue for members of the Submarine Service. The Ursula suit was named after the U-class submarine, Ursula whose commander Captain George Philips was instrumental in getting the suits produced.


97% of all competitors who took part in the Scottish 6 Day Event rode in Barbour International Oiled Cotton suits.


Barbour moved to the Simonside Trading Estate on the outskirts of South Shields and built a manufacturing plant. After 63 years of being a retailer, Barbour became manufacturers and marketers.


Duncan Barbour died age 48 and Malcolm Barbour again took over the business with Nancy and her son John Barbour age 19.


Malcolm Barbour died age 83 and Nancy Barbour took over the role of Chairman with John as Managing Director.


John Barbour died suddenly leaving behind his young widow Margaret and their 2 year old daughter Helen. Margaret was immediately made a member of the Board of Directors.


1 April Barbour received the first Royal Warrant from HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.


The first lightweight thornproof short riding jacket the Bedale was designed.


The distinctive black and gold Barbour International badge was first seen on the famous motorcycling jacket of the same name.


Barbour moved into a new factory in Simonside where the company remains to the present day.


1 January - Barbour received the second Royal Warrant by Her Majesty the Queen.


The Beaufort jacket designed by Margaret Barbour featured in the catalogue for the first time.


1 January - Barbour received the third Royal Warrant by HRH the Prince of Wales.


The Barbour Trust was set up to support local and national projects and community issues. 


In June 1991 Margaret Barbour was honoured with the award of Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to industry.


J Barbour & Sons Ltd celebrated its centenary.


Margaret Barbour was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year’s Honour’s List.


Barbour won the Best Shooting Clothing Product at the IPC Shooting Awards for the Northumberland range designed by Lord James Percy.


Barbour was the jacket of choice at the Glastonbury Festival with acts and celebrities such as the Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen,and Rufus Wainwright all wearing the brand.


Barbour won a special commendation at the Sunday Times PricewaterhouseCoopers Profit Track 100 Awards.


Barbour won Best Shooting Clothing Product at the IPC Shooting Industry Awards for the Linhope Endurance 3 in 1 jacket designed by Lord James Percy.


Barbour sponsor Newcastle Falcons rugby team, as the official partner for off the field attire. Dressing players, coaches and management of the Newcastle team whose ground is located just north of the Barbour HQ.


Barbour launches its first collaboration with British luxury vehicle manufacturer Land Rover. The clothing and accessories collection launched in AW14 for both men and women.


Barbour presents the brand at London Fashion Week Men’s for the first time at the Swiss Church in Covent Garden, highlighting key pieces from the AW15 range.


Barbour signs Scottish actor, Sam Heughan, as its first global brand ambassador. Sam’s love of the outdoors and link to founder John Barbour made him the perfect fit.


Barbour launches the Barbour Way of Life brand campaign, this was quickly embraced by consumers on social media, sharing their own #BarbourWayOfLife


Barbour launches Barbour Beacon in the UK, taking the brand's rich heritage and giving it a contemporary twist


Barbour celebrates its 125th anniversary.


Barbour launch a womenswear collaboration with the ALEXACHUNG brand.


Barbour introduces Barbour Re-Loved whereby customers can return their old jackets to be repaired in exchange for a voucher on a new one.  Their old jackets will be resold.


In October, Barbour launched its new customisation service, My Barbour offering customers the chance to design their own Barbour.



On 21 November, Dame Margaret won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Drapers Awards. 



From 6 April, the Barbour factory reopened and began making PPE disposable gowns for the NHS to support the fight against COVID-19.  The factory made 50,000 disposable gowns by the end of May before returning to make wax jackets.



In August Barbour won Men’s Footwear Brand of the Year at the Drapers Footwear Awards. Judges said this brand has grown its footwear credentials by staying true to its heritage, managing its distribution and giving the consumer what they want. Consistent, sustainable growth has been the reward.  


In August, Barbour collaborated with Selfridges as part of their Earth Project to reinforce their commitment to sustainability.  The first electric Defender with a Tesla engine is displayed in the Oxford Street store and is customised by ECC Motors in Wales to take tartan and quilt lined seats and large wax pockets on the back of the seats for storage.  To celebrate this collaboration, Selfridges are selling a collection of Re-Loved jackets, all with the Selfridges yellow button. 



In September, the first Wax for Life station was launched in Selfridges, Oxford Street, London.  It featured a dedicated rewaxing area, personalisation, Re-Loved jackets, Barbour Gold Standard and classics.  This is a permanent area within Selfridges.


In July, Barbour celebrated its Re-Waxing Centenary – 100 years of re-waxing jackets 1921-2021. 

It was in the 1921 catalogue that re-waxing and repairs was mentioned for the first time.



In August, to celebrate the Re-Waxing Centenary, Barbour in partnership with British Vogue launched a competition to design a Re-Loved Barbour jacket.  The competition featured in a DPS in the September issue of Vogue (out August). 

On 30 November, the winner of the Barbour x Vogue Re-Loved competition was chosen by judges Dame Margaret and Helen Barbour, Vanessa Kingori and Naomi Smart from Vogue and Bosse M from Selfridges.  There were over 500 entries and the winner Victoria Perry was chosen from 5 finalists with her design ‘I’m Frilled For You.’  The jackets were then displayed in Selfridges to raise money for The Prince’s Foundation.


Barbour collaborated with House of Hackney for the first time on a small collection launching on 27 September 2021.

In addition, Barbour Re-Loved x House of Hackney created two tiers of Re-Loved jackets and a capsule collection of 35 jackets made with off cuts from House of Hackney materials sold exclusively in Selfridges in August.



On 9 November, HRH The Prince of Wales visited the Barbour factory and opened the new Wax for Life Workshop.  He met Dame Margaret, Helen and Stella Barbour and members of the factory and customer services teams and even had a go at re-waxing a jacket.


In April Barbour won the Best Circularity Award at the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards for our Wax for Life campaign.