The term wardrobe staple is banded about all too easily within the style press, and yes, there most certainly are pieces which every stylish man, sorry let me correct myself, EVERYMAN should have in his clothing repertoire, a black single breasted suit, a decent white and black shirt, a good pair of brown brogues, a quality pair of Black Oxfords, a pair of well cut black/blue denim jeans, I could go on. But when it comes to selecting definitive outerwear, things become a little more difficult, the pea coat, the overcoat, the parka, all have there place and are great for different looks and occasions but a timeless classic and a fairly safe bet for looking good no matter what you put it with is the International Jacket by Barbour.
Now over 100 years old, Barbour is a fifth generation family owned company who have developed a unique understanding of clothing. Duncan Barbour, grandson of Barbour’s founder, was a keen motorcyclist. In 1936 he oversaw the creation of a one piece suit called the Barbour International. Made in dark green wax cotton, it was named after, and developed specifically for, the 1936 International Six Day Trials (ISDT) event. The International jacket, the world’s first wax cotton biking jacket, debuted a decade later.
The International became so popular that it was worn by almost every British Motorcycling team until 1977. In the 1954 ISDT, more than 70% of riders wore one. In 1964, The International was worn exclusively by the American ISDT team, which included actor (and bike nut) Steve McQueen, and the legendary stunt rider Bud Ekins, who “rode in” for McQueen on that famous fence leap in The Great Escape, which was in part responsible for elevating the International to its iconic status.
The design evolved in the 1950s. The distinctively slanted breast pocket developed for quick access to maps, essentially for modern urban living, don’t you know. The iconic black colour came about thanks to a link-up with Vincent motorcycles, ‘Maker of the World’s Fastest Standard Motorcycle’. Vincent machines were invariably black and gold. The celebrated black and gold Barbour International embroidered badge, however, only appeared in 1980, but soon became a fast favourite.
Today, the International jacket continues to be produces to a near-identical specification. Beloved by classic bike aficionados and style connoisseurs in equal measures including Ewan McGregor, Viscount David Linley, The Duke of Edinburgh, Helen Mirren, Alex Turner and Rufus Wainwright.
Ian Bergin, Director of Menswear says of the International Jacket “ We have a rich resource in our Archive and draw on this on a seasonal basis to produce intelligently designed pieces for a modern consumer. Attention to detail, fit and finish are key in the Heritage area and we strive to provide a great rounded product which is totally fit for purpose but provides newness as well as value.”