A casual buy no. 11

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I’ve owned this old Barbour Northumbria jacket for nine years. It was hoodless and I initially wore it over a suit whilst working. Then, as it got older, helping my father in law around his field in Bexhill; and I kept it hanging on the back of the front door as a quick throw-on for a run to the shops when it was wet. My other coats are hung neatly in my wardrobe. I never really saw the Northumbria as a “casual” item, that was until I decided on impulse to buy a matching sylkoil hood for just over a score recently. I tried it on with the hood and thought “You know, I actually like the look of this old thing now”.

Barbour make far trendier, perhaps even more exciting jackets – the Dry Fly or the International range for instance. The Northumbria looks plain by comparison, most would expect to see it on the back of some Wurzel sat on a tractor in a field in Dorset rather than on some urbanite “lad” at the footy. And they are mostly right.

But, in my humblest opinion of course, this thing labelled “casual” is about standing out from the herd sometimes (others would say “all the time”, but I’m not that conceited and far from being a “face” – I’m square baby!). It’s also about what YOU YOURSELF feel comfortable in.

After the initial Golden Era of casual in the very early 80s, which was brash, loud, and swathed in bright Italian sportswear, there was a reaction and period of “dressing down”. Especially in the north west of England – where arguably the subculture had and still has it’s beating heart – lads began looking dressed down and chilled out. Labels disappeared and it was okay to look, heaven forbid, “scruffy”. Tweed and waxed cotton were in and polyester out.

Phil Thornton, in his excellent book about all things casual, called this reaction to garish sportswear “retro-scally”. There’s no scallies in Brighton & Hove apart from emigres from Merseyside; but the freedom to dress in whatever made them comfortable meant these scruffier lads brought to the scene a new way of thinking about clothing and set a precedent. It’s not always about mega-bucks brand labels (although the Northumbria itself ain’t cheap), being a smart-ass, a clothes horse, or, and I might be commiting blasphemy here, getting “one-up” on other lads out and about all the time. You can mix your CP Company with M&S, your shoes can be old and scuffed, there’s no hard and fast rules for this way of looking and feeling. That’s why I’m happy to step out in my old Northumbria with it’s new hood, I love this tatty old jacket again.

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2 Responses to “A casual buy no. 11”

  1. barrell86 Says:

    scopped one of these bad boys out in a shop in Manchester today, very nice

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