Barbour Sylkoil Vs. Thornproof Jacket: An In-Depth Comparison

When shopping for a Barbour jacket, you’ll notice they come in either Sylkoil or Thornproof. But what exactly is the difference between these two types of Barbour outerwear?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know to choose between Barbour Sylkoil and Thornproof.

We’ll cover the key features of each material, compare them side by side, and provide tips on finding the right jacket for your needs. Whether you’re looking for a lightweight spring jacket or a heavy duty winter coat, read on to learn if Barbour Sylkoil or Thornproof is better for you.

A Brief Comparison Table

FeatureBarbour SylkoilBarbour Thornproof
Material6oz sylkoil wax cotton6-8oz thornproof wax cotton
Weather resistanceModerate, sheds light rainExtreme, heavy duty protection
BreathabilityHighly breathableCan be very warm and stuffy
WeightLightweight and flexibleHeavy, stiff, and rugged
LookMatte, cottony finishGlossy waxed appearance
Color optionsContemporary lighter huesClassic darker waxed colors
DurabilityReasonably durableExtremely hard-wearing
Best Use CaseVersatile, transitional weatherCold, wet climates

Overview of Barbour Sylkoil

First, let’s dive into the details on Barbour Sylkoil. This material uses a lightweight wax cotton that has been treated with Barbour’s proprietary Sylkoil process. Here’s what you need to know:

Barbour Sylkoil Jacket
  • Sylkoil jackets are made from 6oz cotton that has been wax coated for water resistance. The Sylkoil finishing gives added repellency.
  • The Sylkoil process results in a soft, broken-in feel straight out of the box. The wax coating has more of a matte look compared to the glossy Thornproof finish.
  • Sylkoil jackets are lightweight and flexible enough for full freedom of movement. The cotton breaks in further over time.
  • The sylkoil treatment enhances breathability, making this a good choice for active wear. It provides decent weather protection without overheating.
  • Sylkoil jackets typically come in lighter, contemporary colorways like stone, navy, sage, and antique brown. Olive is also offered.
  • This is the more affordable Barbour waxed cotton option. Prices range from $200-500 based on the specific style.

Some of the most popular Barbour jackets made with Sylkoil include the Bedale, Beaufort, Border, and several ladies’ fits like the Calvalry and Utility range. Sylkoil gives you versatility for transitional weather and daily wear. Now let’s look at how Thornproof compares.

Also Read: Alternatives To Filson Mackinaw Cruiser.

Overview of Barbour Thornproof

Barbour’s Thornproof jackets represent the pinnacle of weatherproof waxed cotton outerwear. Here are the key characteristics:

  • Thornproof uses a heavier 6oz or 8oz tightly woven cotton that goes through an intensive thornproofing process.
  • The cotton is waxed up to three times to completely saturate the fibers. This makes the fabric totally waterproof.
  • Thornproof jackets have an unmistakable waxy look and scent when new. The wax loosens up over time as the cotton breaks in.
  • Thornproof jackets are heavy, stiff, and very rugged. They can stand up to years of wear and rewaxing.
  • The dense fabric and heavy wax coating make these jackets very warm. Thornproof is focused on cold and wet weather performance.
  • Traditional dark colors like black, brown, green, and navy are offered since the heavy waxing limits dyed colors.
  • These are Barbour’s premium jackets, ranging from $400-600+. You’re paying for unbeatable weatherproofness.

Some iconic Barbour Thornproof jackets are the Northumbria, Border, Benbow, Beaufort, and Gamefair. Next up, we’ll do a side by side comparison of the two materials.

Direct Comparison of Barbour Sylkoil And Thornproof Jackets

Now that you have the background on both Sylkoil and Thornproof jackets, let’s directly compare the two materials across some key factors:

Weather Resistance

Barbour Thornproof Jacket
Barbour Thornproof Jacket
  • Thornproof is hands down superior for weather protection. The intensive thornproofing process and heavy wax make it totally water and wind proof.
  • Sylkoil provides decent water resistance thanks to the sylkoil finish, but it is not impenetrable. It will shed light rain but can become saturated in heavy storms. Wind protection is moderate.
  • If you face consistently wet or windy conditions, Thornproof is worth the investment. Sylkoil is better suited to lighter weather.

Breathability and Comfort

  • Sylkoil is much more breathable and comfortable to wear. The lighter weight cotton and sylkoil treatment allow good air circulation.
  • Thornproof can feel quite stiff, heavy, and hot due to the dense cotton and thick wax coating. It takes time to soften up and isn’t ideal for active wear.
  • For a jacket you can wear year-round without overheating, opt for Sylkoil. Thornproof prioritizes extreme weather over comfort.

Also Read: Differences Between Barbour Bristol And Ashby Jackets.


  • Thornproof has that classic wax jacket look – the cotton is visibly saturated with wax for a glossy, slightly oily appearance.
  • Sylkoil has more of a matte, cottony finish that looks a bit more modern and refined. The wax is absorbed for more subtle water resistance.
  • Traditionalists love the waxy Thornproof look, while others may prefer the more low-key Sylkoil. It comes down to personal taste.

Color Selection

  • Sylkoil jackets come in contemporary, lighter color options like sage, stone, navy, tan, and more olive shades.
  • Thornproof is mostly limited to darker, traditional waxed jacket hues like black, brown, forest green, and dark navy blue. The heavy waxing makes colored dyes difficult.
  • If you want a unique color Barbour jacket, Sylkoil offers more variety. For a classic look, choose Thornproof.


  • Thornproof jackets are extremely durable, able to withstand decades of wear. The heavy cotton and wax make them practically bulletproof.
  • Sylkoil jackets have decent longevity but the lighter fabric doesn’t hold up to abuse quite as well over time compared to Thornproof.
  • If keeping your jacket as long as possible, Thornproof is the way to go. But Sylkoil should still last for many seasons with proper care.


  • Sylkoil jackets cost $100-200 less on average compared to Thornproof. The exact price depends on the specific style.
  • Thornproof commands a higher price due to the laborious thornproofing process and premium materials. But you get what you pay for in extreme weather protection.
  • If budget is a concern, Sylkoil gives you great value for money. Thornproof is an investment for the long haul.


  • Both jackets require occasional rewaxing to maintain water repellency, though Thornproof needs it more frequently. Rewaxing kits are available.
  • Thornproof jackets tend to attract more grime due to the heavy wax coating and require a bit more care to keep looking clean.
  • Be prepared to rewax 1-2 times per year and spot clean as needed. Take proper care and your Barbour can last a lifetime.

So in summary, here are the trade-offs:

  • Thornproof has far superior weather resistance but less comfort
  • Sylkoil is more breathable and flexible but doesn’t offer as much protection
  • Thornproof has a traditional waxed look vs. Sylkoil’s more modern matte finish
  • Thornproof is built to last decades, while Sylkoil is reasonably durable
  • Sylkoil costs noticeably less than the premium Thornproof

Keep this comparison in mind as we move onto tips for choosing the right Barbour jacket for your needs.

Also Read: Reasons For Elder Statesman Being So Expensive.

Choosing Between Sylkoil And Thornproof

Now that we’ve covered the key differences between Barbour Sylkoil and Thornproof jackets, let’s discuss how to choose the right one for your needs:

  • Consider Your Climate

The main factor is deciding what level of weather protection you really need. If you live somewhere with consistently wet, windy winters – choose Thornproof. Its heavy wax coating and dense cotton will seal out the elements.

If you just experience occasional light rain and want better breathability, Sylkoil offers enough water resistance while maintaining comfort.

Think about the conditions you’ll realistically be wearing your Barbour jacket in most often. Match the level of protection to your actual needs.

  • How Will You Use It?

Also consider how active you’ll be while wearing your jacket. If you need full freedom of movement for things like hiking or biking, pick Sylkoil for its lightweight flexibility.

If you’ll mainly be wearing your jacket for things like walking the dog or running errands, Thornproof’s stiffness and weight won’t be as much of an issue.

And if you expect to work your jacket hard through rugged use, Thornproof is the clear choice for toughness. Depending on your lifestyle, one may be better suited.

  • Traditional or Modern Look?

Do you want that classic waxed jacket look? Or are you looking for something a bit more refined?

Thornproof has the traditional waxy, weathered appearance that Barbour is known for. Sylkoil offers a more polished, modern matte finish.

There’s no right or wrong – it just depends if you prefer a sleek or rugged aesthetic. Choose the look and vibe you find most appealing.

  • Budget
Barbour Sylkoil Wax Jacket
Barbour Sylkoil Wax Jacket

There’s no denying that Thornproof jackets come at a higher cost.

If keeping your budget reasonable is important, Sylkoil provides great performance and value.

But if you have room in your budget and want a jacket to last a lifetime, a Thornproof Barbour is worth the money.

Its durability and weatherproofing live up to the investment.

Think about how much use you plan to get out of your Barbour and choose accordingly.

For many buyers, Sylkoil hits the sweet spot of quality and price.

By weighing all these factors, you can zero in on the perfect Barbour jacket for your particular preferences and needs.

Also Read: Comparison of Barbour Border And Northumbria Jackets.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Barbour wax cotton waterproof?

Barbour Thornproof wax cotton is 100% waterproof thanks to the intensive thornproofing process. Sylkoil wax cotton resists light rain but is not impenetrable like Thornproof. However, both can be maintained with re-waxing to improve water repellency.

How often should you rewax a Barbour jacket?

For optimal performance, Sylkoil jackets should be rewaxed every 1-2 years, and Thornproof jackets every 6-12 months. Rewaxing replenishes the protective wax coating. Barbour rewaxing kits make it easy to do at home.

Does wax wash out of Barbour jackets?

Over time through wear, washing and exposure to the elements, the wax finish can deteriorate. Rewaxing restores the protective coating. Avoid washing too frequently and use wax enhancing detergents to help maintain water repellency.

Should you wax a new Barbour jacket?

Brand new Barbour jackets come pre-waxed by the factory. However, you can apply an additional layer of wax when new to enhance water resistance. After the break-in period, follow the rewaxing guidelines above.

How long do Barbour jackets last?

With proper care and maintenance, a Barbour Sylkoil jacket should last around 10 years, and a Thornproof model can last over 20+ years. The heavy Thornproof wax cotton makes jackets extremely hard wearing. These are heirloom pieces.

What’s the warmest Barbour jacket?

The warmest Barbour jacket is the Northumbria due to its burly 8oz Thornproof waxed cotton and insulating tartan lining. Other excellent cold weather options are the Border, Benbow, and Caban. Opt for Thornproof over Sylkoil for superior insulation.

Finding the Perfect Barbour Jacket

We’ve covered a lot of ground comparing Barbour’s signature Sylkoil and Thornproof waxed cotton materials. To recap:

  • Sylkoil is lightweight, comfortable and ideal for moderate climates and active wear. It’s also easier on the wallet.
  • Thornproof offers heavy weather protection, extreme durability and that iconic waxy look. It’s the premier premium Barbour jacket material.

Choose Sylkoil for versatility and value or Thornproof for traditional styling and rugged dependability.

Beyond the Sylkoil vs Thornproof decision, also consider:

  • Length – shorter equestrian cuts like the Bedale or longer field coats like the Border
  • Fit – slim/tailored vs. roomy traditional fits. Barbour has expanded sizing and designs in recent years.
  • Details – wedge vs. quilted lining, corduroy collar, patch pockets, internal pocket layouts, etc.

With proper maintenance, whichever style you choose can last a lifetime. Follow the care guidelines and don’t overwash to extend your Barbour’s longevity.

We hope this detailed buyers guide helps you pick your perfect Barbour Sylkoil or Thornproof jacket. These iconic waxed cotton coats provide timeless style and protection from the unpredictable British weather. Stay cozy!

Clayton S. Johnson

Well, I am Clayton who writes, manages, and does overall stuff for this website. I live somewhere in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and used to have a full-time job. But the pandemic taught me to do more do with my life. So, I quit my job and travel a lot! Since I have tons of time now, I write about all the stuff I have done, used, and have first-hand experiences.

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