In the past we have featured overcoats, cardigans and most recently the blazer. Compared to the Harrington Jacket, all of these are more formal with the exception of the cardigan, but it fits right in that gap between semi-formal and casual. It has been a favored a style of many stylish men including Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra, James Dean or Daniel Craig and hence we want to focus a bit more on the Harrington Jacket. Even if it is too cold to wear it in most places of the Northern Hemisphere right now, you’ll be able to wear the Harrington Jacket soon and hence now is the best time to discuss it.
Characteristics of the Harrington Jacket
Before we delve into this garment’s history, let’s first define the characteristics of a Harrington jacket as we know it today.
- A waist length jacket.
- Made of either cotton , wool or leather ( also available in synthetics )
- Usually a single color on the outside.
- Fits snugly around the waist with an expandable elastics along the bottom hem and cuffs.
- Has a full front zip that runs all the way up to the neck.
- Has two buttoned flap pockets on either side in the lower fronts which are cut at an angle of 45 degrees.
- Straight collar much like a mandarin collar that fastens with two buttons.
- A back yoke that is designed to allow the rain to run away from the jacket and the wearer. This unique design feature was inspired by the umbrella.
- A tartan interior lining.
Most sources state that the Harrington jacket was first designed in England in the year 1937 by John and Isaac Miller, the founders of Baracuta, in Manchester. At the same time, the English company Grenfell claims they made that very same style of jacket in the early 1930’s. Unfortunately, the name “Harrington jacket” didn’t evolve until 1964 after a Baracuta G9 was worn by the actor Ryan O’Neal while essaying the role of Rodney Harrington in the TV series Peyton Place. The name was popularised by John Simons, the menswear retailer who is credited with bringing the Ivy League look to London. They still stock the jacket today. Based on that, it seems impossible to prove who actually invented it first, unless archival pictures of garments with dates are revealed.
Baracuta first began making rain proof outerwear for Burberry and Aquascutum before branching out on its own. The fact that they made their name in rainwear and that the Miller brothers aspired to be accomplished golfers played a large role in the design of the Harrington jacket. It was therefore no surprise that initially it became extremely popular among golfers, as it was designed to keep the rain away from the wearer without compromising appearance. The angled flap pockets were ideal for keeping golf balls and its elasticised waist and wrists allowed for a free swing of the arms. There was also an element of ventilation in its design that made it ideal for sports in general. In fact, the “G” in the name designation stands for golf, and the Japanese named it a “swing jacket” because it was worn on the golf course.
Golf was at that time was the exclusive preserve of the wealthy and upper classes, and thus the Harrington jacket benefited from its association with the sport and came to be regarded as an object of aspiration and upward mobility. This was reinforced by the fact that in 1938, the Fraser Clan chief, the 24th Lord Lovat, gave John Miller his permission to use the Fraser Tartan for the lining. The Harrington jacket was at that time called the G9.
In the 1950s, Baracuta began exporting its products to the United States and the G9 was picked up by the students of Ivy League colleges and soon became a staple of the preppy look. It was the perfect prep garment, not informal yet still sporty.
The G9 was introduced to a wider audience in 1954 by none other than Elvis Presley, who wore it in the film King Creole. In the US, it gained further popularity when Steve McQueen wore it in the 1968 movie The Thomas Crown Affair. He appeared on the cover of Life magazine in one and thus his legacy went hand in hand with the garment. The Harrington jacket was worn by many famous names including Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck and even James Dean; the latter wore it in the movie Rebel Without a Cause.
Back in the UK, the Harrington was adopted by the mod movement of the 1960s, thus becoming a part of the iconic period British look. While its popularity never faded, it enjoyed a revival in the 70s, 80s and 90s by finding its way into other subcultures like Scooter boys, Punk and Ska among others. In fact, many singers and bands of the brit-pop scene favored them.
It remains popular with various social and socio-economic groups, due to its history, lack of heritage brand, stylish yet utilitarian design and association with counterculture. With such a diverse background, Baracuta produced a number of limited editions such as the punk edition and an anniversary edition consisting of 137 jackets called Project 137 to celebrate the 70TH anniversary of the G9. Baracuta released three special jackets – the G9, G10 and G4 with quotes by Elvis Presley, Steve McQueen and Frank Sinatra printed on the lining as well as a serial number.
Style & Fit Advice
How does one begin with such a versatile garment?
- As always the fit is the first thing to look out for. A classic Harrington’s body will always be cut short in relation to the chest size and arms.
- The elastic hem of the jacket should always cover the belt or waistband of your pants, and the sleeves must be long enough so the elastics cover your wrists. If that’s not the case, try another one.
- The classic G9 outer shell is made of a poly-cotton blend that is water repellent though I also enjoy pure cotton. You can also find corduroy, leather and all kind of other materials nowadays.
- Although Baracuta sells a style called “G9 Original” it is in fact not the original Harrington jacket because the modern version is slimmer and utilizes better quality fabrics than the old jackets. Of course, if you want the real deal, you have to go for a vintage jacket but even then, it will be hard to find.
Obviously, this jacket is well suited to all kinds activities in typical spring/fall climates. Of course, you can wear it for golf as its intended purpose but also for driving your motorcycle or convertible to get groceries or for a picnic… the possibilities are endless. When it comes to looks here are a few options:
James Dean / Steve McQueen – the cool and casual look is best achieved by keeping things minimal. Jeans, T-Shirt and boots sums it up beautifully. There is a wide scope to play around with these elements and one can mix and match to achieve the look that suits you.
Preppy – as mentioned before the Harrington is a preppy staple. One can wear them with chinos , a polo shirt and boat shoes or replace the Polo with a button down shirt and throw in a bow tie , also one can replace the chinos with shorts ( without the bow tie ) . Early adopters often wore it with a Fred Perry T-shirt but only brand victims care about the label. I suggest you always look for quality, cut and design first.
Semi-Formal / Sophisticated – Replace your Blazer / Sports coat with a suitable Harrington while keeping the rest of your ensemble the same. Contrary to how it may sound or look in print it actually does work, and will definitely make you stand out from your peers.
What Harrington Jacket to Buy
The Harrington jacket has successfully bridged the gap between these diverse cultures and subcultures and is still much favored by musicians and rebels even today. Due to this the Harrington is now made by a host of brands and manufactures and is available in all price ranges. They are made by Yves Saint Laurent , Ralph Lauren , Lambretta Clothing , Tommy Hilfiger, Orvis, Pretty Green , Brooks Brothers , Merc London , Fred Perry , Tesca , Izod , Ben Sherman , Lacoste , Lyle and Scott , Lonsdale and many others…
But if the fit is right, I’d recommend you stick with either the Baracuta G9 Original model which sells for about $390 / €300 /£ 280 or the Grenfell version which retails for $450 / €345 /£ 300. Now, you may find one on ebay.com or ebay.co.uk for considerably less, than that but be aware that there are fakes out there and a brand new jacket for $50 is likely not an genuine one. As always, if the deal is too good to be true, then it simply is too good to be true.
Many of our readers told us they are really happy with John Simons Harrington jackets, and with a price tag of £ 149, they cost just about half of the Baracuta G9.
What Harrington jacket do you wear?
This article was written by Sven Raphael Schneider & Vikram Nanjappa.