In 1964 Steve McQueen was part of the American International Trials team which operated in a gruelling and fearless endurance motorcycle race. The team chose to wear Barbour’s jackets and in doing so they cultivated the sort of jackets the brand from the North East of England had been creating with such perfection- and have continued to do so since.
Steve McQueen became something of a style icon during his career in films and he was idolised for the “biker look” which eventually earned him the nickname “King of Cool”. McQueen had always loved motorcycles and even performed his own stunts in his films, as well as competing in races during his spare time off set. Posthumously he remains celebrated as one of the biggest film stars and style icons ever, at one time he was actually the highest paid actor ever, his estate is still one of the highest earning for a deceased celebrity due to image rights.
Lauded for his simple, sleek and masculine style, his look has remained timeless and is forever imitated by designers. Barbour is one of the most prominent labels to capitalise on the success of his image, with a collection that has been running since 2011. Typically it offers a selection of vintage, replica jackets, printed t-shirts and retro styled shirts.
The foundation for Barbour’s fame in the world of motorcycling was set long before the Steve McQueen heyday though, having produced the first International jacket in 1936 when the man himself was merely an infant. This jacket was then worn by every British National Motorcycling team from the time period of 1936 – 1977 as well as appearing on riders in the famous Isle of Man TT race. Their jackets even got used in the Second World War by Submarine Commanders.
Jackets by Barbour International today still nod towards the heritage of the brand with small design features such as the zip pull ring which is big enough for a gloved hand to grip. Also, the belt is in place to prevent the jacket blowing around, as well as the pockets being strategically placed to allow easy access with the right hand, freeing up the left to control the clutch. Wax, quilted and other vintage styles are all covered in the nostalgic collection which channels the 60s and 70s when McQueen and his biker image was at its peak.
A vast range of Steve McQueen t-shirts with unique motifs are now available to buy at Mainline Menswear.
J Barbour and Sons Ltd set up in South Shields producing weather-proof outerwear in 1894. They became recognised for their high quality and eventually this signalled a transformation into the luxury clothing brand it is today. Even though their business has changed such a lot since those days they still produce their jackets from the North of England, approximately 100,000 each year, which is why people value their heritage so much.