Class conscious

Barbour - famous for rainproofing Sloane Rangers - has suffered a sharp decline in sales of its countrified gear because of foot-and-mouth disease, but the overall trend is positive.

The subtext of a Barbour waxed jacket is still vaguely posh: wearing one, you are meant to feel as if you're in a John Buchan novel, but the brand has long since broken through into the mainstream.

As a press officer for the company told me: "Our customers could be anything from hunting, shooting and fishing sorts to somebody who runs a fruit and vegetable stall."

This is true, and there's a certain type of hard, competent, Barbour-wearing bloke that I keep seeing in pubs: he is usually handsome but alone, drinking heavily but silently - two extremely sinister combinations. If I were making a crime film, I'd certainly put the lead villain in a Barbour rather than the traditional camel-hair coat.

It is obvious that Barbours are not naturally a truly rich person's product. They are designed to keep off the rain, and the whole point, or one of the points, about being rich is that you don't have to go out in the rain much. Nor, indeed, do people who are poor to the point of destitution - they have nothing to go out in the rain for. No, keeping dry is a very low-middle-class thing, and the reason the anorak has fallen into such contempt is that it seems symptomatic of petit-bourgeois prudence. So what you need instead, especially if you're a bit of a snob, is a glamorised alternative.

When I was at school in the Seventies, there were two ways to go. The first was a fishtail parker, which made you look a bit like a mod - ie, a pill-popping nutter, but with romantic cachet. The second was a rally jacket, which was essentially an anorak, but without the depressingly utilitarian hood, and with a kind of go-faster stripe running, via the shoulders, from one sleeve to the other. (I speak of this garment in the past tense but, for all I know, Jarvis Cocker may already have returned it to favour in aspirational circles.) The Barbour, to my mind, is simply the latest product in this honourable line.