The Complete History of Barbour

The Complete History of Barbour

Barbour are known for their wellington boots and waxed jackets. They have a deep-rooted heritage in country wear and a strong connection to the Royal family. However, long before the late Queen Elizabeth II rocked her Barbour waxed jacket and wellingtons, Barbour was originally made for fishermen and sailors to keep dry while out at sea.

There’s a lot more to Barbour than their shoes fit for a Queen and a few fishermen. They’re a generation-after-generation business, reinventing and resculpting their classic silhouettes to fit current trends while still marching to the beat of their own drum. 

Barbour set the benchmark for well-made, well-presented outdoor clothing and footwear that are waterproof and stand the test of time. To many, owning Barbour clothing or footwear brought a certain social status boost. And some still think the same now, but how has Barbour’s approach to its collection changed since its inception? If at all? 

This guide will take you through the complete history of Barbour – the when, where, and how. We will explore Barbour’s connection to the Royal family and how they become the brand celebrities and folk like you and us alike would reach for daily. Be that the classic wellie on a rainy day, boots for a trip to town, or cosy slippers for an evening in front of the fire.  

Barbour history: The beginning 

The beginning; a very good place to start. Barbour began retailing footwear and clothing in 1894. Founder John Barbour originally opened J Barbour & Sons at 5 Market Place, South Shields, which would soon become more known as simply Barbour, the brand we know and love today. 

Demand for Barbour’s gear soon gained attention and was very popular amongst fishermen, shipyard workers, sailors, and river and dock workers. In 1908 Barbour expanded their business and created their first order catalogue via post. Supplying workers with wet weather wear across Hong Kong and South Africa. 

Barbour branded itself as the ‘beacon’ brand for oilskins, waterproofs, and footwear. Now, this was all well and good for the time – but bigger things were coming over the horizon for J Barbour & Sons. 

A family-run business 

John Barbour was the first generation of Barbour. In 1968 immediately after John’s death, Margaret Barbour was appointed to the Board of Directors.

The company has seen five generations from the Barbour family hold the reins. From John passing over the responsibility to Malcolm and Jack Barbour as joint Managing Directors – they remain a family business to this day. 

Barbour and the Royal Family

Iconically worn by Royal figureheads over the years, including the late Queen Elizabeth II, now King Charles, Kate Middleton, Prince William, Queen Consort Camilla, and Princess Diana – to name a few. 

The Barbour Royal Warrant

A Royal Warrant is a certification given to people or businesses that have provided goods or services to specified members of the Royal Family for at least five years. It means that the provider has complied with the Royals' high criteria for quality. In 1974, Barbour was granted their first royal warrant. The Queen's warrant in 1982 and the Prince of Wales' warrant in 1987 came next.


Present day Barbour

In the more recent year of 2020, Barbour tackled the COVID-19 pandemic by taking a break from wellies and wax jackets and made the NHS and front-line workers PPE from their factory. All in the same year, Barbour won Men’s Footwear Brand of the Year at the Drapers Footwear Awards. 

Not long after, in 2022, sustainability being at the forefront of many businesses' minds, they won the Best Circularity Award at the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards for our Wax for Life campaign.

Barbour is still relevant and continues to be a sought-after brand for footwear, clothing and accessories. But, let’s remind ourselves where we are. We’re TOWER, and our passion is footwear. Barbour’s footwear collection captures the attention of all ages, forever remaining a timeless asset to a wardrobe. 

The classic Barbour wellington boot

The most iconic of Barbour's footwear collection is the wellington boot. They have evolved their wellington boot collection over time, but it has never lost sight of its classic style and exceptional durability. 

Barbour wellingtons come in various styles now. Perhaps the most sought after, the traditional forest green, to other trendy designs and shades which are certainly on the rise in popularity. They can be worn with a floral dress for a more bohemian aesthetic or a vintage Barbour waxed jacket and jeans for a classic country look. 

Are Barbour wellington boots true to size?

They sure are. If you’re in the market for a new pair of wellies and Barbour is your favourite brand, don’t worry about sizing up or down. Go with your actual size and they’ll fit like a glove. 

Find your next pair of Barbour footwear 

Barbour are more than just wellies, right? They have a host of exceptionally well-made shoes for everything, from a shopping trip to a muddy walk in the forest. And, here at TOWER we’ve got some of the very best Barbour footwear there is. Think smart brogues, casual boat shoes, walking boots, beach-side slides and comforting slippers—all by our beloved Barbour.

One of the many reasons we love Barbour’s shoes so much is because of their incredible durability. And, let’s be honest, if they’re good enough for the Royal family – they’re good enough for TOWER. 

Fancy feeling inspired? Let us help you: A Guide To Dressing Smart Casual.

Discover the best Women’s Barbour Shoes / Men’s Barbour Shoes with us at TOWER.

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