A beautiful barn jacket is worth its weight in gold, and that is when we turn to functional fabrics— quilted nylon, corduroy, and waxed cotton—in styles suitable for the saddle and beyond.
To the uninitiated, quilted nylon, corduroy, and waxed cotton may not sound like luxury fabrics, but as equestrians we know these traditional workhorse staples of winter outerwear have an allure all their own.
Recently, it seems, our secret is getting out. In recent years, the chic appeal of the sporting life has become a favorite look amongst fashion trendsetters. A certain stylish princess is often photographed strolling in her Barbour jacket, and Kate Moss, ever the iconoclast, never does the Glastonbury rock festival without her Hunter boots.
A beautiful barn jacket has two key components: functional textiles and a flattering fit that is appropriate for the stable. Quilted nylon provides highly wearable insulation with its smooth face and lightweight loft, while waxed cotton, originally developed for the Scottish sailing industry, is a traditional choice when warmth and waterproofing are required. Touches of corduroy and leather add softness and durability to the collar or maybe an elbow patch.
In terms of fit, silhouettes have become more tapered, creating both a fashionable appearance to the barn jacket as well as better range of motion while working or riding. Belted looks are in abundance this year, and I also favor back venting, which flatters and accommodates the hips in (and out of) the saddle.
A most traditional choice is the iconic Barbour Liddesdale jacket, made modern with a feminine floral-print lining—a perfect choice for trail or town. The Dunburry, from the Barbour Gold Label collection, steps up the fashion factor with a stand-up collar, loads of leather trim, and an even slimmer fit.
My “it jacket” choice of the season is the Belstaff Trialmaster in the olive-toned military color. This elegant edition of Belstaff’s original 1948 garment is constructed of six-ounce hand-waxed cotton with a plush quilted check lining and washed velvet neck and cuffs. It’s a hard working piece, paired with of-the-moment styling in the form of triple-snap cuffs and a smartly belted waist.
Last spring, I worked with the boutique equestrian label O’Shaughnessey Apparel on a two-piece capsule collection, including our collaborative take on the modern equestrian’s barn jacket. Constructed of Italian quilted nylon, the Flynn jacket features a fitted silhouette with vented back, off-center antique brass 2-way zip, and button closure collar. It’s available in Champagne and a striking Persimmon for the equestrian who, like me, can’t get enough of the color orange.
Another favorite is the Moredalecheck Quilted Jacket from British favorite Joules, a classic quilted hacking jacket in a dashing country plaid with corduroy pocket flaps and elbow patches.
Among these choices, it’s easy to see that the classic barn jacket is rapidly evolving from practical wardrobe staple to a stylish must-have. So pull out that vintage Barbour or pick up a new barn jacket in a fresh color—and remember that, as equestrians, we are always the champions of function plus fashion.
Molly Knott is the founder and editor of the lifestyle blog, Dappled Grey, a curated guide to equestrian style and culture. When not working on the blog, she can be found doting on her warmblood, Fitch, and maintaining her small farm in the Pacific Northwest.