My battered Barbour: A rewaxing service to recommend

Monday, June 27th 2022
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By André Larnyoh

When I first got this Barbour jacket, I remember wondering if it was really me.

I was around 19, taking all my inspiration from Pinterest boards and The Ivy Handbook. A waxed motorcycle jacket seemed off the beaten track. But it was on sale, so I took the plunge.

In the eight or nine years since, while I’ve been fortunate to have acquired some other impressive and objectively cool things, nothing else I own has as much character as this. When people see it they frequently ask if it's vintage. It’s not – it’s just lived a life.

I’ve worn it a lot, and everywhere, from city to woodlands. It has become tattered, bruised, torn, had numerous random items shoved into its pockets but, in doing so, has become my personal gem.

If the jacket could speak, it would tell you a good few things about my life. Like how I used to carry a Swiss Army knife in the top pocket “just in case”, but that never extended past opening a box or bottle of Coke (or once my own hand). When I realised this, it later became the home of my iPod Classic (R.I.P).

Or that time I left it behind at a party after having a few too many cheap margaritas, and found it the next morning hanging off a railing outside. Later, after discovering someone had left their contraband in the pockets, I spent the day worrying I was going to get nicked at any second.

Before I bought the Barbour, I was actually lusting after a classic trench coat or a hardy black leather jacket. But I could never find a vintage Burberry in my size, and when I finally mustered the courage to walk into Schott, I walked right out again. That price tag? It’s what dreams are made of.

My hopes of looking like a spy or a street tough were dashed, but seeing as I was not and still am neither, it was no great loss. The Barbour ended up being the ultimate compromise. It was hard wearing, it had a belt, there were a lot of useful pockets and it set me apart - something which really mattered at the time. I was studying abroad back then, and everyone in NYC has a leather jacket of some kind. But I never saw someone in a waxed jacket like this.

Back home in London though, Barbour’s country jackets were a symbol of our national class divide for me. They were - and to an extent still are - the finishing touch for the displaced generation who were too young to be Sloanies and became entrenched in Clapham instead. The battered Babours these people had stolen from their parents' country house was sometimes the only interesting thing about them – an object that could survive so much wear and abuse over the years and look wholly original.

Mine comes from a collaboration between Barbour International and the motorcycle manufacturer Royal Enfield. (Good luck trying to find one - it’s long since stopped being produced.) I was drawn in by the olive green, different to the normal black or brown of the International line, and by some subtle differences that set it apart from most Barbours.

There are three buttons at the patch pockets instead of two, a soft moleskin collar instead of corduroy, and reflective strips - which were entirely useless to me until recently, when I started spending all my time riding around town on a bicycle.

There was even once a detachable synthetic fur lining that was occasionally used as a gilet under a coat, during some very cold winters.

Over the years I’ve had to send my jacket off for repair only twice. I’d usually send it to Barbour, who would take forever to repair and re-wax it.

Eventually some of the damage to the elbows and pockets became so extensive that they resorted to panelling over it with discarded bits of waxed cotton or replacing the pockets entirely. I was told this over the phone as if it were a great tragedy, but I was delighted: they were effectively Frankensteining my jacket! More character! More charm!

Still, the service provided by Barbour was slightly disappointing. Mostly the fact that all the damages were never covered: each time only half would be done. When I asked why, I was told that each jacket is only allowed a certain number of hours of work per visit.

As repairs aren’t cheap, it's safe to say I was annoyed. Meanwhile there were two large tears in the shoulders that were growing wider each day, and the stitching of the cuffs was fraying again. I didn’t want to spend more just to get another half job, so for a while the jacket just sat in the back of the wardrobe, only being worn when it felt safe to do so without causing further damage.

That all changed when someone recommended a place called Oily Jack, where apparently my precious piece could get the true TLC it deserved and desperately needed.

A small family-owned company in Kent, all they do is rewax and upcycle waxed jackets from Babour, Belstaff and other manufacturers. They quoted me 90 pounds for the rewaxing and various repairs, and said it would take a week. Seemed pretty short, but I was already committed so I held my breath.

When Oily Jack sent me images of what they had done to my jacket after a week (above) it was like one of those reality TV moments.

You know, the contestant wants a makeover and they spend the whole episode going over what's going to be done to their hair and their outfit, before finally revealing the new and improved contestant to their family and the world at large.

Gasps, tears of joy, incredulity at how different they look. All of those emotions flowed when I saw the results. It was like they had given this tired, worn-out jacket a new lease on life.

Using cloth from an old 80s Solway model, they had created new patches and piping across the belt where it was starting to fray, while material from a 70s model replaced some of the metal hardware. The rewaxing also completely changed the colour, making it a very dark shade of olive rather than the aged brown it had become.

Initially I was worried that this scale of change had removed all the charm the jacket had acquired over the years. But as soon as I put it on again, for a cold snap we had this Spring, I came to see it as necessary to extend the life of the old thing. It wasn’t being worn otherwise.

And who knows how it’ll age after this process? I guess I'll only know in another nine years. All I know is that I’m not going to be gentle.

Portrait of André, Will Milligan. Other before images, André; after images, Oily Jack.

oilyjack.co.uk

 

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Matt L

Are you sure they didn’t just buy you a new jacket and lie about it?? A boarder-line miracle has been done to that jacket.
I spent some time last spring re-waxing my waxed cotton coat myself. I was quite pleased with myself but looking at your results here I think next time I’ll send mine to Oily Jack instead.

Carl

Thanks very much for sharing this. I have been thinking myself about how to handle a barbour I got a while back

James

Fantastic article – thank you. Very much in the spirit of PS: buy good clothes and choose to maintain them well so they last and last.

Misbah

Apparently if you do wax the cotton yourself, the way to seal it in is to use a hairdryer

Darren

I can definitely vouch for this. Apply with a clean sponge and use a hot hair dryer to get a smooth, even finish and drive the wax into all the seams and corners. Works every time.

SteveB

Exactly, I’ve been doing this to my old Northumbrian Barbour of nearly 40 years. Wax it in especially seams & creased areas ( these are the areas where tears & splits evolve other than snags ). The hairdryer & rubbing in & out excess wax, buff up & you have a nice even wax. Stitch any holes & tears & wax over. Another useful seal is Stormshore over the stitch & wax for a more watertight finish. DIY lets you investigate & solve your own wear & snags.
Have usedBarbour for new brass zip & that was well done, but the rest – do yourself, save the money & carbon footprint of postage where possible.

Tommy Mack

Brilliant article. I’ve been meaning to have my Barbour repaired and rewaxed for a while. I was going to send it in to Barbour but now I’ll definitely check out Oily Jack.

Tommy Mack

Just got my Barbour back. I can thoroughly recommend Oily Jack. The relaxing and repair work (darning a few small holes in one of the cuffs) are impeccable and their customer service and communication is excellent.

Tommy Mack

Rewaxing not relaxing!

Stephen

Hi André,
An interesting article and one to which I can relate. I have an 9 year old ‘aged’ Belstaff that carries many memories of my travels and more recently long walks during the pandemic, hence a much an emotional as well as sartorial history. The creases, patina and holes in the lining all contribute to a unique character.
Belstaff do a re wax service (not repairs, the London store did recommend a tailor), although I use their wax product and do it myself.
I fully get what you mean about the class inferences as a resident of Clapham (London), to some extent this keeps me in the Belstaff camp. I occasionally wear tailoring (Simon and I agree to disagree!) underneath, but my preference is a thick knit roll neck on an autumnal morning
I think a Barbour or Belstaff are a core capsule wardrobe item that we both recognise have a longevity and only improve with time.
Best Stephen
p.s. btw a great article made all the better by not inferring they are a sexy item! Just a tongue in cheek reference to another article!

P.A.

Another great article that would fit perfectly in the ‘How great things age’ series!

Michael

Amazing results! I’ve got a RRL wax walker that I was really worried about re mucking up an inevitable rewax but these guys are clearly worth a look! Really like that whilst it’s clearly been rejuvenated, it’s still retains it well lived character

Amit

Hi André. Thank you for this Blog. I got mine Barbour Lutz Waxed Cotton Jacket – Tailored Fit in Olive colour last year. I’ve only worn it one winter season, If God wills many more to come. Let’s see how mine ages over a period of time. Really looking forward to it. Yours has aged beautifully and it really tells a story. As you’ve clearly mentioned that it can and should tell your story. How Barbour sees your life in them and gets you through it? That’ll be a good one 😊 In this pic. I’m wearing mine Barbour Lutz over my PS White Oxford – Shirt with my The Armoury by Nigel Cabourn Jeans and on my feet are Red Wing Moc Toe 6 inch Boots 8819’s. Simon would definitely tell me that a PS Blue Chambray/ Denim/ Oxford – Shirt would’ve been more appropriate and perfect. And I absolutely agree with you Simon and second that thought on this one 😊

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Rob O

Fantastic article, thank you. I have a Private White jacket that needs waxing. I’ll send it over. That transformation of your jacket was shockingly good

J Crewless

Had one of these in my motorcycling days and got me through heavy downpours on my Beemer often hundreds of miles from home.

Think I just threw it out. Stupid me.

David

Great article – and great photos of a well loved jacket. Disappointing to hear about the issues with the Barbour repair service though. I’ve always been pleased with their work when I’ve sent things back to the factory, even when it involved fairly extensive repairs.

Ed

That’s an extraordinary turnaround. Mending and alterations are totally my jam (until I earn enough to buy the other lovely things at PS).
Re: class I found a vintage Barbour in a shop in Liverpool for £5. They had 20 and the shop assistant said they’d had them for 2 winters and not sold one. Now they were all buy giving them away. Tastes of a city eh

G

Simon you clearly have a hang up about class!

André

Hey G,
I used to think I didn’t, but I realized half way through writing this that I do a bit… its what happens when your brought up on the other side of the tracks!

Mark Hayes

Nah. One minor reference in an entire well-written report. That’s not at all a hang up. Merely an editorial device to move the prose along and a descriptor of style provenance. If you cultivate your writing ability and your perception you’ll be in a class by yourself — in the best possible human way. Just don’t look down on everyone else! Humility is always the best route, even when others may not deserve it.

Mark

That is one of the best articles I have read on this site. I really enjoyed it. Thank you!

James G.

Deeply impressive. It’s as if the jacket has regenerated, Doctor Who style, and is now new but still fundamentally familiar. Bravo Oily Jack, website bookmarked for the future.

Phil

Nothing to do with clothes but I still have and use an Ipod classic (mentioned in the piece). It must be 15 years old and is a miraculous device. The battery has hardly degraded at all and I have over 200 hours of music on it but am nowhere near the capacity. No wonder they discontinued it – they gave me no reason ever to replace it.

Malcolm

Wish I still had mine Phil. I would still have it given the choice, great but of kit and I’m sure appreciating in value. Unfortunately, my cat peed on it, catastrophically corroding and destroying the insides 🙂

Aaron

I’m honestly a bit shocked Barbour would send back only a half-repaired jacket. Nice to see that there’s an alternative and it looks great.

m

Is this kind of wear normal for waxed jackets? Around my part of the world almost nobody owns item like this and that’s why I lack exposure on how these things age. Would it similar to a bronze watch and develop a patina quickly?

A woman who loves to read about men's style

This jacket is cool. It’s different without trying too hard. The re-waxing job is fabulous. I once had an antique table restored in a similarly unobtrusive way. The restorer didn’t make it look new again, just beautifully aged.

Paul

Interesting article. I’ve always had a similar hesitation around waxed jackets. Perhaps because they are emblematic of a world I wasn’t raised in, they’ve often felt like the slightly forced costume of an aspiring gentleman. This has inspired me to give them another chance. The way yours has aged is really quite beautiful.

Zvonimir

Brilliant article! One of the joys of living in a large city in the Eastern Mediterranean is that the tradition of fine tailoring has endured to this day. There are several tailors within 10 minutes of my door, and they, like Oily Jack, have reknit the ravelled sleeve of care–my 1975 Belstaff–whenever needed. I do my own rewaxing once the temperature reaches 30C or so.

FatherStyle

This is a very cool article. I find the associations that Barbours carry to be fascinating. It seems like wearing one is pretty loaded if you’re in the UK, given their connection to certain classes. In the US, it’s really only NYC where Barbours have any kind of association (that of the “Midtown Bro”, similar to the Patagonia fleece vest). Anywhere else, though, (in the US) it’s just a casual jacket and doesn’t mean anything. I just find that difference to be really interesting. 
-Richard

BespokeNYC

A lovely story and a great looking jacket. Does anybody know of a similar service for Mackintoshes? I have a well-used coat that has now lost all its water proofing, and the cuffs are getting very frayed. Would love to give it a new lease of life, and it seems a shame to get rid of it

JB

A few things strike me about this article:

  1. The jacket is beautiful, lovely patina and the repair jobs finally made are really well done.
  2. It’s completely baffling to me that Barbour would send a jacket back half repaired because it’s not ok to work on one for too long? Would love to hear a official response to that one… Maybe they weren’t up to the task?
  3. I remain in awe of guys who wear Barbour waxed jackets and look great while doing it. To me they are unwearable. Might as well be wearing a plastic bag as they don’t breathe at all, I end up feeling muggy and uncomfortable all day. I can’t believe I’m alone in this, would love to hear some more reader input. Does everyone ignore the uncomfortable nature of wearing a waxed jacket for the function and style, or am I just a minority?
Sir Cumference

Impressive work done on that jacket. So impressive in fact, that I immidiately sent a request to the company upon reading the article. Unfortunately I have yet, more than ten days since, to receive a reply. So although the services may be excellent, the customer service is not. Maybe a sort of catch 22 of these companies, -excellent until discovered?
Aside from these remarks: kudos to PS who keeps promoting actual sustainability within this very consumtion driven realm (#menswear that is).

Per Nilsson

A really interesting article. I had my old Beaufort repaired & rewaxed at the factory a few years ago and they did a wonderful job. What astounded me was that they really couldn’t care less that patches are fully visible, which gave my jacket a lovely boro (Japanese patched together fabric) look.

While we are talking Barbour, a question Simon: I‘m looking to buy another Barbour jacket, and this one would be a smarter one which I envision to wear over a tailored shirt to a meeting. I work in conservation and must rely on online shopping. Unfortunately Barbour is doing a spectacularly awful job at explaining the differences between their jackets. It appears there are at least 5 styles that look roughly identical, but surely aren’t.

May you kindly guide me towards which one to pick? If it helps I‘m rather tall and on the slim/fit side and in my 30s

Thank you

Martins

I second the wax walker! for me Barbour cut did not work but vax walker was just perfect! some things “could” be improved but it became my commuting jacket from +12-ish to coldest London has been last year.

Per Nilsson

Thanks Simon

The Wax Walker looks great, and I own a few PWVC pieces which are lovely.

But let me be controversial: Isn‘t a Barbour like Coca-Cola? Very available (unless where I am) and hard to improve upon. Sure, you can make so many changes but in the end isn’t it a Barbour you really want?

Have a nice rest of the weekend

Lindsay McKee

Simon,
I had a Barbour wax jacket about 30 years ago which was my everyday jacket. It was worn to work, out walking the dog… even To London….almost every day. I even got the fur lining to zip on inside. That was great… until it began to wear down of course. I got some barbour wax and had a go at the waxing. I even sent it back to Barbour for re-waxing. It eventually got so tattered it was no longer wearable. I don’t know how long I had it.
I like the Barbour concept but it is too high maintenance for me.
What is the next best alternative to the standard waxed jacket if I wish to avoid re-waxing?
Thanks
Lindsay McKee

Lindsay McKee

Thanks for that.
Lindsay