A waxed jacket is one piece of outerwear that is quintessentially British. Brands like Barbour, Belstaff and Orvis have given the waxed jacket icon status, turning it from a sailor’s get-up to a staple of heritage clothing. Princes, fashion icons, even James Bond has got on the bandwagon with this one (think Daniel Craig in Skyfall).
But why did we start waxing jackets in the first place? Cue the waxed jacket lesson.
Where did the waxed jacket come from?
Sail like an Egyptian
We have the Ancient Egyptians to thank for starting this particular trend. As well as the first civilisation to have sported eyeliner, early Egyptian sailors rather usefully discovered that if they coated their sails in wax they’d be more durable to the ocean’s waves. They then applied this idea to their clothing, coating their garments in animal fats and oils. And ta-dah! The waxed jacket was born (kind of).
A sailor went to sea, sea, sea ...
Back in Britain, sailors didn’t begin treating fabric with oil or wax until some time in the 15th century. At first, they began waxing their sailcloths with fish oil, then with linseed oil. This waterproofing coating meant that the sails were protected from the harsh elements at sea. Often the sailors would wear leftover pieces of sailcloth to protect themselves from the harsh winds and waves.
But it wasn’t until the mass production of waxed jackets in the late 18th century that the style really took off in Britain. This was forefronted by a clever company called Francis Webster Ltd, who ingeniously figured out how to create a method for treating fabrics with linseed oil for mass production. Because of this little lightbulb idea, they became the supplier for the sails to the British Navy.
Where does Barbour come in?
Although it kept sailors dry, linseed oil wasn’t perfect. It turned yellow as it aged (this is why sailors traditionally wear yellow) and cracked in cold weather conditions, becoming increasingly less waterproof with time. This was solved by British Millerain, who pioneered the development of paraffin-based waxed cotton. Unlike linseed oil, paraffin-waxed cotton was more weather-resistant and more breathable. Even better, cotton treated with paraffin didn’t deteriorate as quickly as linseed oil.
Quickly, Francis Webster and others joined in British Millerain’s stead and began producing paraffin-waxed clothing, with Francis Webster trialling the technique of rainproof clothing out in New Zealand with huge success. Soon enough, this type of waterproof clothing expanded from beyond just seafaring folk. Brands like Barbour have helped to immortalise the British wax jacket by producing premium apparel to waterproof members of the royal family, farmers, gamekeepers and the military.
Today, there are other waterproof materials on the market like PVC that allows you to get a weather-resistant jacket for less. But unlike waxed cotton, PVC is less breathable, provides little to no insulation and quickly deteriorates. Waxed cotton on the other hand, if looked after, can last a lifetime.
Everyone needs a waxed cotton jacket in their life
The classic wax jacket is as deeply ingrained into British culture as Wimbledon, a cup of tea, the pub and saying sorry too much. Bestowing the wearer with instant countrified style, the classic waxed jacket has an rightly found a home in the collections of many premium brands. At Archie Foal, we have taken these iconic style elements and reworked them into our Ansgar jacket, which is made to be stylish but tough, lined with moleskin wool for added warmth.
Being made out of natural fibers, instead of PVC or other less breathable materials, waxed cotton jackets are built to allow your body to breathe while also keeping you dry. That’s why at Archie Foal, all waxed jackets are made using premium fabrics from respected names like British Millerain, who have specialised in creating waxed cotton fabrics for six generations. Made using natural, British-made fabrics, they are guaranteed to keep you dry and warm in even the harshest weather.
Only gets better with age
Not only are they breathable and waterproof, a classic wax cotton jacket also moulds to you over time. Like leather (or wine), waxed cotton improves with age. Well-made, premium waxed cotton garments - like our Gia Wax Cotton Coat and Nea Wax Biker Jacket - are made to be stiff at first, but over time will soften to your shape. As it ages, your trusted waxed jacket – always by your side (or on your shoulders) – will develop a rich patina that attests to its durability. Made to last, it will last decades.
All the colours of the rainbow
Although the classic colours of black and green are always dependable go-tos when choosing a waxed jacket, they now come in a variety of colours to suit all styles. But don’t take our word for it. Have a look at respected names like Halley Stevenson who now craft a range of vibrant waxed fabrics to brighten any rainy day.
How to look after your jacket
As wax and cotton are both natural products, they are bound to wear down. This means that a jacket’s ability to keep you dry will reduce over time.Think about wet jeans - that’s wet cotton. Nobody wants a jacket that will make you feel like you’re wearing wet jeans when the heavens open. Which they inevitably will. Probably on a random Tuesday. To prevent you looking like you’ve fallen into the world’s biggest puddle, be proactive in caring for your jacket.
All of our Archie Foal jackets come with a guarantee of their quality and durability. This is because we put passion and quality into every jacket we make to ensure that they stand the test of time. To know how to properly care for your jacket, we recommend bringing it into one of our stores so we can bestow our expert wisdom as to how you should properly care for your lovingly worn jacket. After all, all any waxed jacket wants is a little bit of love and care.
Looking for premium apparel built to last? At Archie Foal, we invest in durable, sustainable clothing that is timelessly stylish. Made in Great Britain, our wax cotton jackets are made protect you from anything the British weather could throw your way, while being effortlessly classic.