Note: Price above is via End Clothing. Shipping to the US is $11.95, and you’re on the hook for international returns. Also available in Olive, Charcoal, and Black. Freaked out about international returns? You can also get it through J. Crew or Bloomingdale’s, for a hefty mark-up to $229.
Quilted fall jackets aren’t really a “trend” (they’ve been around for awhile now), but more brands seem to be cranking them out as of late. Now that fall has arrived in Glasgow, I have the ideal excuse to finally explore the iconic British clothing company J Barbour & Sons. Specifically their Chelsea Sportsquilt jacket, which is less derivative than the many homages which pack the racks elsewhere:
Most have heard of Barbour, and for good reason. They’ve been a key player in British country style for 120 years. They’re also the makers of the waxed cotton jacket that Daniel Craig wore in Skyfall. They have a reputation in the UK for making stylish heritage jackets with exceptional durability, and historically they’ve been priced accordingly. Yet in the past few years, Barbour has shifted to offer less expensive, budget-friendly jackets. Their goal, it would seem, is to sell affordable variations of their iconic styles without sacrificing the exceptional quality that their brand’s reputation is built upon.
I hadn’t completely settled on the Chelsea when I embarked on my Barbour hunt, I was quite tempted by the slim-fitting Heritage Collection. But both of the stores where I shopped recommended against it. Why? Because of my body type. Hm. O RLY?
The Classic Chelsea Sportsquilt. Not super-fitted. Consider sizing down.
The Chelsea Sportsquilt is easily one of Barbour’s most time-honored, classic styles, and it would be mine. Available in a few different shades, but I went with navy. It’s matte, dark, and can easily be mistaken for black unless it is in direct sunlight. The interior of the collar is soft corduroy in an even darker navy. The Chelsea has a number of elements that make it stand out.
The corduroy snap collar is exceptionally comfortable and warm. There are slanted pockets on either side of the jacket that are perfectly placed for keeping one’s hands warm. The zipper has a large metal ring attached to make it easier to handle while wearing gloves. There are studded snaps on either side of the jacket that allow one to minimally adjust the waist. Additionally, the jacket has both a sturdy zipper and a button flap to keep out the cold.
Sizing can be tricky with most Barbour jackets, and the Chelsea is no exception. I found that sizing down to a small was necessary to achieve a decent fit. A small on my frame is fitted in the chest and loose in the back with sleeves that are slightly too long, but acceptable for outerwear.
Size shown is a Small on a 5’9″ / 175lbs frame. Chest: 41″ Waist: 34″
Barbour made a few unfortunate design choices with the Chelsea that I attribute to cutting costs. The jacket is unlined, a feature that would be welcomed if the jacket were more tailored and the jacket’s pockets were firmly secured to the interior fabric. The pockets are secured with a single thread. I do not expect that thread to last more than a season. That screams cutting corners to me. There’s also no interior chest pocket, and the exterior zippered pocket is barely large enough to contain my wallet. I would rate the overall quality of the jacket as good, but not exceptional.
For the fit, the Chelsea is slim compared to most of the jackets in the Lifestyle Collection, but it’s not what I would consider tailored. The front is straight with little to no waist suppression. The lack of form works in the front, but the back is quite shapeless. It’s one of the few features of the jacket that is utterly unflattering. There are side snaps, but they don’t help much to shape the jacket.
The Bottom Line
The least expensive place to get a Chelsea Sportsquilt, at least online, appears to be through End Clothing and Smith & Morris for around $160. But you’ll have to shell out for international shipping, and then there’s returns. Inside the U.SÄ It is available at a markup to $229 from J.Crew, and keep an eye on Orvis, since they’ll typicall stock the Chelsea in the fall and winter (currently, they just have the flyweight version).
The Barbour Chelsea Sportsquilt is a sophisticated quilted jacket that emanates traditional British country style. The quality is high but not exceptional. The jacket is more relaxed than slim-fitting, and many might prefer the highly fitted Heritage Collection. That being said, it’s tough not to recommend the Chelsea as fine casual jacket for 40-60 degree autumn weather.
Your turn guys… are you on the quilted jacket bandwagon? And if so, are you going to a heritage brand like Barbour? Or what’s your favorite homage to this style? Leave it all in the comments below…
About the author: Chris (aka Bruschetta) is an America-born university researcher and teacher based in Glasgow, Scotland, as well as a moderator on Threads. His sense of style is inspired by a childhood dressed in Ivy league trad, and the fact that he is enormously well bred.