Like most workwear brands, Barbour started humbly. In 1894, John Barbour founded J. Barbour & Sons and established a business as an oilcloth importer. However, the company quickly distanced itself from the competition by perfecting the existing process of applying paraffin wax to cotton. The Barbour as we know it today has changed a lot in some ways, but in others, it has remained pretty much the same. The marketing of the brand is no longer aimed at industrious fishermen, but at beautiful couples strolling the estate grounds with their Jack Russell or fashion-interested heritage lovers. The shift to aristocratic country fashion in the 1980s coincided with the granting of royal warrants to Barbour by the Queen and Prince of Wales.
However, the company is still a family brand. The Barbour family still controls the brand and seeks to maintain many of the elements that made them great: careful engineering in good old England.
Barbour's success, especially in today's world of synthetic tarpaulins, lies in the imperfections of its waxed cotton. Unlike Gore-Tex and other more modern textiles, waxed cotton has a deep character and develops a noticeable patina over time. Wax accentuates the imperfections of cotton and accentuates fading over time to make it more dramatic.