Hunter & Barbour: Wearing Countryside Heritage In The City
My wish list is full of things that I would like right now, but are better suited to my in England life of bouncing back and forth between London and the Kentish countryside than my current state of living in Los Angeles where the current Spring weather is something I would liken to probably the one or two only truly ‘hot’ days we get in England, but for weeks at a time. There are brands like Joules (I did manage to wear one of their padded jackets in January when it got a little chilly here), Cath Kidston and Jack Wills (yes, Jack Wills, don’t look at me like that!) which I adore and I can still intergrate into my Los Angeles wardrobe, but there are some, which some Angelenos try to incorporate that would just be plain hilarious.
There are two brands in particular which whenever I see them worn in Los Angeles causes me no end of amusement one more prevalent than the other. They are two great British heritage brands, made fashionable as well as functional in recent years: Hunter who make wellington boots (not rain boots Americans, wellington boots) and Barbour, maker of wax jackets. Hunter wellies are something I see all the time here, sold in every department store and I see on everyones feet any time rain is forecast And by forecasted rain in Los Angeles, I mean something us Brits would not even justify as spitting. I found this hysterical when I first arrived here, and after 7 months it still baffles me. Hunters to me are the traditional wellington which I usually wear on an actual farm. Mine may be pale pink, one of the fashion colours they made before they started making the newer shiny fashion colours, but they are covered in farm mud and very worn in. They are long, and pretty hard to get on and off with a good heel. I mentioned all of this, is because it is these last two factors on the classic Hunter boot that make them so good for riding a horse in or rambling through the Kentish countryside. On New Years Day year before last I could be found rambling around near my best friend Kathryn’s village, with the rest of her village and their dogs wearing mine over a pair of nice bright blue Farlows of Pall Mall shooting socks. I collect thick bright socks to wear inside my Hunters.
Before the New Years Day walk 2011. Traditional countryside Hunters bottom left.
Hunters were basically that for me, to be worn on a farm or on muddy country walks for me for quite a while before I moved to London, which coincided for me with Hunter starting to make more ‘fashion’ styles, which is what I like to call their ‘city’ styles; wellies people who actually need country wellies won’t use them for, but something that even will want a pair for, not to wear in the regular London rain, but in the snow. I remember going with Kathryn to buy her ‘city’ pair on Oxford Street last February, and I have had my eye on their shiny lilac pair ever since they first appeared in their new season ad in my sidebar. I’m rather jealous of my friend Kristabel right now, who has just styled that pair for Hunter’s current Blogger Style Series. Recently I’ve been playing around with new shopping search engine Style In View which pulls together products from loads of different online retailers all into one place, and it is staggering how many different Hunter colours, shapes and styles you can find on there to choose from.
This photo from Barbour’s official Instagram is what a Barbour should like like to me; well worn and loved!
I think I have only seen a couple of Barbours worn in Los Angeles, and everyone has looked stupid and out of place in them, even in the Liberty pint one I saw. The only place I have seen anything by Barbour on sale in LA was in the Opening Ceremony store, and even then it was one of their lighter waterproof jackets rather than their classic wax style. A Barbour to me has always been the classic countryside jacket. Every farmer or friends parents from the countryside I know has one, and to me a good Barbour is like my fathers massive or my mothers which I sometimes slip on when I’m going outside on a cold day very loved and worn in but still impossibly warm versatile and waterproof. I have always, always wanted one. As with Hunters, my view of them shifted somewhat when I moved to London. I could not get my head around the fact that everyone in the city, most of whom the idea of the countryside terrified or baffled them had Barbour wax jackets. Bankers wore them over their suits on the tube, and even Barbour I had seen was so impossibly new looking. My bafflement was impacted at a press evening I spent messing around the Pall Mall store of the quintessential countryside outfitters, shooting and fishing suppliers Farlows. I was clearly the only person at that event aside from the people in the store who had ever been to the countryside, let along ridden a horse or done something like clay pigeon shooting. But then, after a while, I came around to the idea of a Barbour in the city, rather in the countryside Like with the Hunters, I just needed to think of a different type of Barbour, that was all. For me, this different type of Barbour comes in the form of their Liberty print styles. I am currently coveting one from their second round of print styles, this dark blue wax jacket lined with a feather print. Again, as with the Hunters, another countryside heritage brand I have grown up with I was shocked when I searched for them using Style In View and I found how many styles, colours and designs are now available.
I know I always end most of my posts with a question, and sorry to my American readers, especially on the West Coast who I think I’ve made fun of a bit today but this is for my British readers: if you are from the countryside, how do you feel about our traditional brands being reappropriated by city dwellers, and Londoners, did you consider wearing brands like Hunter and Barbour in the city before ‘fashion’ collections were produced.
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