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Why city kids like me are on the hunt for Barbour | Lanre Bakare

Shunning Burberry’s elitism, Barbour has embraced its urban fans and headed for the high street. Easy on the lambing jokes

Barbour jackets were once the preserve of the country set; sported by Tatler readers on fishing or hunting expeditions. But now younger, urban-based customers are buying into the brand, and I’m one of them.

When I bought my Barbour-style jacket in Leeds in 2009 I returned to the office to be told I looked like Jack Sugden from Emmerdale. The ridicule followed me to the local football club, pub and even on holidays in Spain where friends dubbed me cazapatos, the duck hunter.

Even before Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel show in 2009, which had an agriculture theme and starred Lily Allen sitting in a barn, Barbour was established as the jacket of choice for hipsters. Kate Moss and Alexa Chung wore them to Glastonbury in the same year and now Barbour-style jackets are all over the high street and on Asos.

It’s easy to scoff at the “Hackney farmers” for buying into yet another ridiculous hipster trend. But the brand has become popular beyond the world of Dalston Superstars. Real people like the brand too. Now there’s more chance of someone asking me where I got my jacket than asking me how the lambing season is going.

Quilted, waxed, traditional green, sleek black, bright pink, however they come, Barbour jackets have proved so popular that the company recorded an increased turnover of £123m last year, up around £30m from 2010. Traditional fans have begun to mutter about what happened to Burberry in the mid-noughties when it became synonymous with “chav culture” rather than luxury chic and its traditional fashion base disappeared and sales plummeted. It took an expensive rebranding exercise featuring Mario Testino and Emma Watson to revive its elitist edge.

But Barbour is more open to its new customer base, providing alternative (more youthful) colours to its range. There’s even talk of a more extensive fashion range being developed at its South Shields base in the north east.

So for all the ridicule, the trend has at least led to a revival which is bolstering a UK-based company with a workforce in one of the most economically challenging areas of the country.

There’s a school of thought that says in times of austerity people look up to how the other half live, by watching programmes like Downton Abbey or buying brands like Burberry, Barbour or “luxury items” and at least looking like you can afford to splash out. Barbour’s success is in part down to that aspirational drive, but it’s also down to working-class shoppers putting aside its image of toff chic and making it their own. Barbour is succeeding where Burberry went wrong by inviting everyone to wear one of its jackets rather than vainly trying to limit them to just an elite few.

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