When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

11 January 2006

The return of an old friend

barry in barbour jan 2006
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
It was just about this time of year, in 1991. Gah - fifteen years ago.

I was on my first overseas business trip, and due to poor planning, it wasn't to someplace toasty and warm in the Southern Hemisphere; in fact, in the dead of winter, I found myself in a small town in North Yorkshire, England, freezing my cracker ass off.

No North Carolina winter had ever prepared me for this. I had a very nice lined overcoat that was the equal of any winter the Southern US had ever thrown at me, but Yorkshire meant business. The cold, the wind, the damp. (shudder)

My very first weekend, I took the train in to York from the tiny coastal town I was working in, and after fortifying myself with a glass of beer and a ploughman's lunch, presented myself at a men's clothier.

Through chattering teeth, I implored, "Please outfit me with some clothing that is suitable for this... this... WEATHER."

The salesman briefly sized me up and then briskly marched me over to a rack of dark green, waxed cotton jackets. "What you want, sir, is one of these Barbour Border jackets, over a nice thick woolen jumper. Layers, sir. This jacket, it's waterproof, it's indestructible. Brilliant. Perfect for this time of year."

(As soon as I ascertained that he wasn't trying to sell me a little girl's dress--my US/UK dictionary informed me that a "jumper" is what we call a "sweater" over here--I bought the Barbour, a couple of woolen sweaters, some thick socks and a pair of galoshes, which he called "wellingtons.")

The rest of the clothing has gone by the wayside, but I've held on to the Barbour, through half a dozen moves and God alone knows how many business trips.

In the last fifteen years, I've gone hunting, fishing, camping, and mostly just strolling around town in it; its voluminous cargo pockets have held cigarettes (back when I was a smoker), the paper currencies of ten different countries, sandwiches and snacks, electronic gadgets of every description, and more than once, when I was living in a "gentrifying" area where concealed carry occasionally seemed prudent, a snub-nosed .38.

Fifteen years can be as hard on a jacket as they are on a human being, though. I'm hardly the man I was at 25, and the jacket had accumulated enough tiny bits of damage over fifteen years of seasonal use that it was almost in tatters.

So, with the same sort of trepidation that Linus would face mailing off his security blanket to be mended, I sent my jacket off to Barbour's US service center (in New England, naturally!) for repair and reconditioning.

They do good work there. It wasn't cheap, and it wasn't quick, but for about half the price of a new jacket, the good folks at Barbour returned me a fifteen-year-old jacket with every flaw mended, completely rewaterproofed and good as new.

Better, because of the sentimental value and how thoroughly broken-in it is; at this point, it fits me like a second skin.

Today was a cold, blustery and wet day in New York City. And you'd better believe I wore it to work.

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