this thing's incredible

The Best Thing I Bought in the Last Decade Is a Barbour Bedale Waxed Jacket

Photo: Courtesy of the vendor

Over the past ten years I have held six jobs, lived in four apartments, helped my parents move into five different homes, gotten married, become a dad to a hairless cat, and, as of December 29, 2019, become an uncle to a hairless human. To define that period of my life with one purchase is kind of like asking someone to define the Trump presidency by choosing one tweet. But in looking back on all of those life-event-filled years, I do see a connective thread — rather, lots of threads woven together in the form of one Barbour Bedale Waxed Cotton Jacket.

The jacket was among the first pieces of clothing I splurged on after landing a gig as an editorial assistant at Vanity Fair, which was the first place I ever saw someone wearing a Barbour jacket. Back then, I didn’t know what Barbour was, that it had been around for more than 100 years, or that its coats are worn by the Queen of England. But as someone who grew up wearing jackets from Burlington Coat Factory — or, on special occasions, the Gap — I knew a Barbour jacket was far from either. The corduroy collar, the smart olive color, and the tartan plaid lining gave the Bedale, and every man and woman I saw wearing one, a look of effortless sophistication that my 23-year-old self craved. So one fall day, I went up to the Barbour store on Madison Avenue, paid more money than I’d ever spent on a coat (or a single piece of clothing for that matter), and walked out in a Bedale of my very own.

I probably wore it every day that fall, well into that winter, and then again the following spring, as soon as temperatures warmed up enough. And it has basically served as my go-to jacket for those two and a half seasons a year ever since. Very roughly, that totals some 2,280 days of wear over the last ten years (assuming each season accounts for about 91 days a year), if you’re looking for some hard data to justify the price. But that’s the other thing about the Bedale: Looks aside, the jacket is a worthy investment because it is just a very good and durable and versatile coat. It’s trim while still hanging loose, making it easy to wear without ever looking bulky — even when its ample front pockets are filled with my wallet, keys, phone, and other stuff. This looser fit means you can still comfortably wear it over thick sweaters or other layers (like Barbour’s liners) in colder months without feeling like a sausage. And the waxed-cotton exterior, which gives the coat its slick look, also makes it resistant to rain and light snow (you’ll want something heavier for blizzard conditions).

The wax on the cotton, though, will deteriorate over time, and as it does, the fabric becomes susceptible to rips and tears. But Barbour sells wax you can use to recoat the coats after a few seasons. If you’d rather leave it to the pros, the company also offers to rewax or repair older jackets for a fee. While still totally wearable, my jacket now has a few rips in the sleeves, but I have never tried to rewax it, nor have I used Barbour’s repair services. (A colleague who has, however, told me the process can take some time and isn’t exactly cheap, but is far less expensive than buying a new jacket outright.)

And the matching hood

Barbour Sylkoil Hood

There is something dastardly about charging $400 for a coat and then making folks shill out an extra $50 for the hood to said coat. But if you’re going to make the investment, do as I did and get the hood, too. It’s not the warmest or the thickest, but simply having the coverage makes all the difference if you get caught in a storm without an umbrella, and on those super icky days when an umbrella alone won’t do. Instead of a hood, my husband got one of Barbour’s more expensive interior liners with his Bedale. And he laments that choice every time he puts it on.

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The Best Thing I Bought Last Decade Is a Barbour Jacket