One of the side effects of being an obsessive collector is the constant urge to find the “perfect” version of the item I’m looking for. If something is “close enough,” I’m unhappy with it. This rings true with my current and past ownership of Barbour products, and especially wax jackets. I’ve owned and worn many of the wax jackets that are available in Canada, and it’s true that some are, indeed, better than others.
I’d like to give a disclaimer first that this is purely from my experience and personal preference rather than an objective fact on the “best” Barbour jacket, although some models do come to mind.
The first Barbour jacket I ever owned was a navy blue Bedale in size C38. This was a birthday gift from my father that I cherished immensely, and is what led me to my interest in Barbour products. As described on the Barbour website, “in 1980, Barbour produced their first short, lightweight jacket, the Bedale. Originally designed for riding, the Bedale is favoured by many Britons, from royalty to pop icons. Dame Margaret Barbour designed the Bedale with equestrian practicalities in mind, with a shorter length, relaxed fit, rear vents and the essential Nylon inner ‘drip-strip’ that provided resistance to dampness from horses seeping into the jacket.” The positive takeaways from the Bedale are the ribbed cuffs and the place for a zip-in thermal liner. For Canadian fall and winter seasons, the warm ribbed cuffs of a Bedale are very helpful. I remember the jacket being a go-to jacket when commuting to and from work. The arm length of 32.9 inches is perfect for someone of my 5’8 stature as well, but that’s about it. The primary issue that I hold against the Bedale is its length. In my opinion, the Bedale is suited for anyone under 5’7 or 5’8″ who live somewhere that has milder winters. Personally, I feel once you surpass the 5’8” mark, you are going to start feeling drafts and will lose a lot of heat from the lack of rear coverage along with the lack of coverage on your thighs in cold weather. As my mom used to say in her Yorkshire accent, “it’s gotta cover yer bum.” A C38 Bedale comes in at 76.2 centimetres or 30 inches which, for me, lands in the middle of my seat. This is too short for me, and too short for any retention of warmth for Canadian weather. Additionally, I have long legs and a short torso, so the Bedale is even less suited to my frame. I find it unfortunate that the Bedale was not a great fit for me because it’s an essential Barbour jacket to have in a collection, but if I’m not going to wear it there’s no need to keep it. Do I recommend the Barbour Bedale? Yes, if you like the fit. Buy the Bedale on fit, not popularity alone.
Another of my early Barbour purchases was the fashionable Ashby. My Ashby was a wonderful customized jacket with leather ribbed cuffs and a union jacket patch on one of the arms. I bought it second hand, and really enjoyed it for a time. Barbour says that this jacket is “slightly more tailored than the Bedale, yet still allowing room for essential winter layering…” While I loved the ability to layer, I feel the tailoring takes away from the classic shape of Barbour jackets, along with the corduroy lined cuffs. Although fashionable, the cord cuffs are purely style over substance. The storm cuffs on a Beaufort or the ribbed cuffs on a Bedale are practical and reduce drafts. Furthermore, the Barbour Ashby is not made in the UK. Of course, Barbour’s choice to outsource isn’t a new discovery, but part of the experience of owning a handmade product like a Barbour jacket connects you with the heritage of its UK craftsmanship. Original craftsmanship matters, and maintaining that heritage continues the user experience and satisfaction. From my experience, the Ashby isn’t frowned upon by any means, but if you’re looking for the Barbour feel you won’t find the timeless design and classic look with the Ashby. I enjoyed my Ashby when I had it, but when I upgraded to a Beaufort, I saw the difference between a “good” and “better” Barbour jacket. Do I recommend the Barbour Ashby? It depends on what you want out of it. You are welcome to buy it, but if you’re spending your hard earned money to get the jacket from The Crown, you will be disappointed.
My most controversial experience with a Barbour jacket was my ownership of the popular Barbour Beacon. As described by Barbour, “The three-pocket waxed Beacon Sports jacket is an iconic blazer-style button through, inspired by the sought-after, limited edition To Ki To Sports Jacket.” I will admit, I would love to own the version designed by Tokihito Yoshida to compare my experience with the standard Beacon. Overall, I loved the idea of loving this jacket, and feeling like Daniel Craig in Skyfall. In reality, this jacket wasn’t right for me. For the price and cost per wear for Canadian fall and winter, I felt the Beacon was impractical and also sized in a rather confusing manner. Although I measured for a C40 Barbour jacket, the size medium in this jacket was snug, had very high arm holes for little movement, and had long arms that required some tailoring. Despite those issues, I thought the jacket was great but impractical for my needs. The looks were tremendous and it was a very sharp jacket. The positive takeaways from this was the experience of owning a rendition of the coveted Skyfall jacket. I wouldn’t wear this jacket in snow unless you plan on layering, and even then it probably wouldn’t insulate as much as I’d like. The To Ki To versions occasionally show up for sale, so I may consider buying another one and review it. Do I recommend the Barbour Beacon? It depends if you can afford not wearing it all the time. I wear my Northumbria and Beaufort jackets all year round and the Beacon wasn’t cutting into the rotation enough. It lacked versatility and adaptability for Canadian weather. As I said, I wanted to love the jacket but it wasn’t ticking enough boxes.
The journey of my Barbour discovery led me to purchase my current and old faithful Navy Barbour Beaufort. Described as “Quintessentially Barbour”, the Beaufort is the same relaxed fit of a Bedale but with an extra three inches on its length for a C38. The overall design is very similar to the Bedale and is also still made in the UK. The length is perfect for commuting, city wear, and country wear. Unlike the Bedale, the Beaufort is fully lined and does not contain the Nylon inner ‘drip-strip’. Unless you’re riding horses, I really don’t think this will become an issue. Instead, the fully lined jacket increases warmth with the addition of a thermal zip-in liner. The Beaufort is the all-around perfect Barbour jacket for anyone starting out and looking for just one Barbour. My consistent recommendation to friends who want to buy a Barbour is “when in doubt, buy the Beaufort and work your way around.” The Beaufort will lead you into the linear spectrum of Barbour purchases, it’s not up or down, it’s right where you need it to be. The only issue I’ve ever had with the Beaufort is its storm cuffs as opposed to the ribbed cuffs. For Canadian winters, a ribbed cuff is essential and almost standard on winter jackets. If the Beaufort ever came with ribbed cuffs, it would become the staple Barbour that rises over the rest. Despite that one issue, the Beaufort is the best Barbour jacket you can buy in my opinion. Do I recommend the Barbour Beaufort? Absolutely, 100%. If you can buy used and in very good condition, save your money to buy a few more.
I own a few more Barbour jackets, a Northumbria and a Barbour International Steve McQueen “Joshua” jacket. I’ve chosen to exclude these from my overview here because I plan on reviewing them both individually.
In the end, purchasing a Barbour jacket is your decision alone. However, my “when in doubt” recommendation is a Barbour Beaufort. It’s a timeless classic that will never go out of style or lose adaptability in any weather you throw at it.
3 thoughts on “From Bedale to Beaufort”
Thanks for your insights. As it turns out I currently own a Classic Beaufort and have been considering picking up a Bedale in a different color or a Beacon Sports Jacket so your post comes at just the right time. Looking forward to your thoughts on the International as well
Thank you so much for your comment, it really means a lot that I could help you on your journey. Don’t get me wrong, the Beacon and Bedale are wonderful coats, but they may need more consideration than something like a Beaufort. Stay tuned for more content coming up!
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