Stylin’ with Sam Heughan
I know I’m at the right place when I hear the screams. As I approach the Barbour store on NYC’s Madison Avenue, a man who seems handsome even from 100 feet away steps out of a car and the decibel count immediately goes up. Way up.
There’s a crowd behind a barricade on the pavement. One woman has been waiting there since midnight. Another arrived at 4 A.M., all the way from Washington, D.C. Another says she’s from Norway.
They’re here to see Sam Heughan, Outlander‘s Jamie Fraser. He waves at the crowd cheerfully and poses for a couple of photos before striding through the doors, an admiring “He’s so nice!” wafting in after him. In a kind of echo, Heughan approvingly calls, “This is a nice store!” Everything definitely feels nice right now.
Among the storied tartans and jackets of the classic brand, I spoke to Heughan about his role as Barbour’s global brand ambassador, what we can expect from the third season of Outlander, and what he would be doing if he weren’t portraying an 18th-century Scotsman.
How did you come to collaborate with Barbour?
[Vice chairman of Barbour] Helen [Barbour] and I realized that I come from the same village that her ancestor John Barbour came from, who created Barbour. It just seemed like such a great connection. I grew up in Scotland, and everyone wore Barbour. It’s very practical, it’s very outdoorsy. It’s what the gamekeepers and the fishermen and the farmers would wear.
Do you have any particular outdoor memories of your childhood in that village?
It sounds almost unreal, but I was born and raised on old castle-grounds—Kenmure Castle.
That does sound made up.
It’s pretty ridiculous, isn’t it? But it was also a working farm, so we used to go help the local farmers dip the sheep and round up the sheep. The local shepherd, I vividly remember his old Barbour jacket, with a hipflask in the pocket. It just feels very familiar—like part of my childhood. The smell of the wax. Whenever I put one on now, it just feels comforting.
Sheep dipping—what is that?
It’s to cleanse the sheep of any pests. It’s an annual thing, before they shear the sheep.
So you’ve created a capsule collection with Barbour. What inspired the pieces?
They have this great archive where they have jackets that date back to when they first began in 1894. They’re still wearable; they’ve been so well maintained. That’s what inspired me. To see how, over the years, the jackets change to suit the purpose—for the Second World War, or for motorbike riders. It’s all practical. So that’s what I wanted to reflect in my collection. I love the outdoors, I love climbing mountains. But I also like to walk down the street in New York in the fall and go to a bar. So what I require of a jacket is different, but it still has that heritage.
I read that you’re a fan of Bear Grylls. If you had to head out on an adventure right now, what would it be?
I’ve always been into endurance sport, which I think is more about your mind pushing your body, which is definitely why that Bear Grylls book sung to me. I’m kind of obsessed by Everest and all those men that mountaineer and take themselves to extreme limits. Having gone back to Scotland to work on Outlander, I’ve been climbing a lot and getting out in the Highlands.
I imagine it’s pretty cold in Scotland while you’re filming.
I came from Scotland this week—I’m filming now, and just finished the first two episodes of the third season. It’s freezing cold. It’s raining.It’s Scotland. It’s always wet. Scotland is about layering. The weather changes every 10 minutes.
But you have it easier than your costar Caitriona Balfe, who has to wear giant dresses that she can’t even get through doors. Is she mad at you sometimes?
You know, every day I feel very fortunate, because it’s tough for women. In those days, it was terrible—in these corsets, to be almost trussed up in something very constrictive. Whereas for men, it was very relaxed. They give me half an hour to get ready in the morning, to get my kilt on. I can do it in two minutes. It’s great. Poor Caitriona is there for 45 minutes.
Is there anything you can tell us about the forthcoming season?
The third season is based on the third book. I don’t want to jinx it, but it feels very strong, very exciting. There’s a lot that happens in it. If the second season was very political—a lot of intrigue, and even Diana Gabaldon said it’s a hard book to adapt—I think the third book is the one everyone’s excited about. So much time passes by—20 years—the characters are apart and together again, so there’s some big emotional stuff.
Are you spending a lot of time in makeup to capture the passing of time?
Jamie has to age—I’m not giving away how. But I think it’s less about looking older and more about the experiences he’s gone through. I spend hours in makeup anyway, because I’m always covered in mud or blood. You can still see makeup on my nails here. It just won’t come off. I’ve spent the last two weeks on a battlefield.
Well, I did suggest that Caitriona has it easier than you, but you spend a lot of time wearing not that many clothes and covered in crap. How do you deal with that? Do you have a psychological trick that keeps your body warm?
I tend to enjoy the cold more than the heat. So I’ve had the air-con on here constantly. Because I sweat as soon as the sun comes out.
If there’s one Barbour piece you could give to Jamie, back in the 1700s, what would it be?
He’s a practical guy. I would give him one of the practical wax jackets. It would last forever, it would keep him warm and dry. And camouflaged, as well.
He would probably think you were some kind of magical wizard.
I mean, he’s dealt with a lot and taken it all in his stride. If he can believe Claire’s from the future, then a Barbour jacket is an easy jump to make.
Source: Estelle Tang / Elle Magazine