As the clodagh is to Irish jewelry, so is the waxed jacket to Irish clothing.
Barbour is the quintessential Irish wax jacket maker; they’ve been making them since 1894. The jackets are kept for lifetimes and, even passed down within families, so special are they considered by their owners.
These garments are called wax jackets because they are coated with wax to make them durable and waterproof. They are made out of cotton. The application of the wax is called proofing. Once the cloth has been proofed, it can never be washed! It’s true. If you wash or dry clean it, the fabric will be ruined. Barbour advises the owners of their jackets to sponge clean them gently with cold water and reproof–apply fresh wax–about once a year. I guess this can be difficult, so most people pay about 50 dollars and send their jackets back to the factory to have it done there.
I’ve been interested in getting myself a Barbour jacket just because it is one of those traditional Irish items that is very useful. Probably the most classic design of the Barbour jackets is the Beadnell. It’s a rather plain jacket, black with large patch pockets and not too difficult to find here in the U.S. Several of the major chain department stores carry it and it looks like it will set me back about 300 dollars.
This video gives a quick but delightful introduction to Barbour and shows an expert reproofing a jacket. I went looking. After all, if I by one of these, I’m not sure I want to send it all the way to Ireland and have to wait for a month to get it back!