It’s rather surprising that I haven’t stepped into the vintage Barbour market yet, but to be honest, I’ve haven’t found the right ones. When I found a vintage Barbour Gamefair online in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I had to have it. Given the climate of Halifax, a seaside city, Barbour jackets are a no-brainer. Yet, I’ve noticed in the Canadian used Barbour market right now, sizes 44 are very popular but 38 have become very in-demand. I can assume that a Barbour in size 38 is an average size so the desirability and, therefore, price can ask a premium. Naturally, there’s always a risk when purchasing something online. Buying from eBay is one risk but online classifieds like this are very risky, but through only a few photos this one looked to be in exquisite condition. Not only did this jacket come with a Barbour hat, but it also came with an original hood. I rarely see or purchase Barbour hoods for my current jackets, so this purchase became an experiment for me.
The Barbour Archive tells us that the Gamefair was the second Barbour jacket to become pivotal in the country wear market that was introduced in 1960 at the York Game Fair as a lighter alternative to the Solway Zipper. Although both the Solway and the Gamefair were introduced in the same year, they have very different intended purposes. The Solway was much heavier and designed for hard-wearing country pursuits, whereas the Gamefair was designed for fishing and shooting. In Barbour Catalogues, which can be seen here, the Gamefair was a jacket shorter than a Northumbria but longer than a Bedale or Beaufort. In the 1987 catalogue, the Gamefair is called the “classic countryman’s jacket…it’s smart enough to wear over tweeds, immensely comfortable, and so light you can take it anywhere you please and wear it where you will.” The jacket had optional accessories for a snap-on hood, belt, and allowed for snap-in pile liners. The jacket also features a studded storm flap and adjustable elastic storm cuffs. Throughout the 20th century, the Barbour Gamefair played a pivotal role in the development of other iconic jackets but was unfortunately discontinued in its original design in 1997.
When the jacket arrived in the mail, I was shocked to see how well it had been taken care of. Upon further inspection, I saw that the label featured two royal warrant crests, which dates this jacket between January 1982 and January 1987, and not the 1990s as the jacket was advertised. Barbour received their third royal warrant, that of the Prince of Wales, in January 1987. It’s also pretty easy to research in the used market that two crest Barbours are quite desirable as they’re from a shorter period in the jacket’s overall production timeline. I’ve yet to see one in this condition, but Wax and Tartans has a similar Gamefair with a wonderful patina. The jacket barely has any patina up close, and feels no older than my Northumbria despite the jacket being over 30 years old. From what I heard from the previous owner, the jacket was barely worn over the years but still waxed annually.
Unlike the Solway, the Gamefair is much lighter by design and does not have moleskin hand warmers or breast pockets, but it does have very large inner and outer pockets. The Gamefair eventually had hand warmer pockets in the three crest versions, which is definitely a fine upgrade. One aspect that I felt was an excellent addition is the snap elastic storm cuffs. Personally, I feel these should be brought back as I love the snap over the current velcro in the Beaufort and Northumbria models. For weight, I would definitely choose a Beaufort or Northumbria as an everyday jacket over a vintage Gamefair. For Canadian weather, the Gamefair’s description in the 1987 catalogue is completely accurate. The Gamefair is a layering jacket and definitely requires an investment in a snap-in pile liner. What this jacket has going for it is its heritage and “no-nonsense” design. The Gamefair is one of the originals and possesses as much Barbour heritage as you can find.
Overall, this 1980s Barbour Gamefair is a rare, iconic, country wear staple. Would I recommend this Barbour Gamefair as an everyday Barbour jacket over a Beaufort or Northumbria? Not necessarily. I like the versatility and pocket varieties of the Beaufort and Northumbria, as well as their suitability for Canadian weather. Would I encourage a Gamefair in your collection? Absolutely. If you can find a Gamefair at a fair price and condition, this timeless classic is always worth the risk.