The Harrington Jacket

This iconic jacket has been pretty much constantly on the back burner since the Modernist / IVY League look from the late ’50s, and from the late ’70s I can’t remember it ever not being around. This could well be down to a lot of the movements back then being revival driven. The association of this jacket has very strong ties with the Mod movements, but also in the late ’70s, it was adopted by the Punks,  the Two-Tone mob, the Skinhead revivalists, the Oi! movement and the newcomer Casuals. This neat preppy windcheater seemed to be worn by all the cults from about ’77 onwards, until the demise of the teen cult when the birth of the all-inclusive dance music scene kicked off proper in the latter half of the ’80s. I’m sure our mothers were all so relieved to see their sons and daughters in such neat clothing, after black leather biker jackets, MA-1 flight jackets, Levi’s denim jackets, Donkey jackets, etc., etc.

Little did we all know the original Harrington jacket wasn’t actually called Harrington at all. Its official name is G9, and was made by the British company Baracuta. It was also a jacket for golfers, hence the G in G9.

Here’s some text from Baracuta’s site briefly explaining the roots of this iconic jacket:

  • The first-ever Harrington jacket was created by Baracuta founders and brothers, John & Isaac Miller in 1937.
  • In 1938 the brothers were given permission by the Fraser Clan chief, the 24th Lord Lovat at Beaufort Castle to use the, now iconic, Fraser Tartan in the lining.
  • The G9 earned the nickname Harrington because it was worn by the character Rodney Harrington (played by Ryan O’Neal) in the 1960s television programme Peyton Place.
  • Today, the G9 Original Harrington Jacket is still made to the exact same measurements & is still lined with the iconic Original Fraser Tartan.

I have to confess to not knowing the true origins of this jacket until I read Robert Elms’ amazing part autobiography / part history of London street fashion: The Way We Wore, and even in that book Robert is actually describing a different model, not a G9. I used to wear Harringtons, but like most of us inner London street urchins we just used to buy the copies from the local cool clothes emporium. Though to us they weren’t copies, as we never knew any better. Tobias Jones, down the Bethnal Green end of the Roman Road (London, E2) was one such place. Also a haven for all the Casual logoed clothing, but that is another chapter altogether. The last place I got a non-Baracuta Harrington jacket was from Merc, down Carnaby Street. Still got it too. It’s a navy one with a red (not Fraser) tartan inside. Thankfully, for these jackets anyway, Merc didn’t embroider their name on them, like they used to be a bit guilty of. Ok, I never knew about the Baracuta originals, but I was also aware that my Merc one wasn’t an original, so didn’t want that ‘not original ‘status emblazoned on the chest. Even in total naivety it’s still best to err on the side of caution.

Scan ahead a few years and I got me a proper Baracuta G9 Harrington jacket. This time a tan one. I was worried it may be a little too slim-fit for my mid 40s frame, but it fit perfectly. The day it turned up I was wearing a pale blue Lacoste polo shirt, a pair of dark Levi’s 501s (what else) and some yellow/gold Clarks Originals desert boots. I gingerly slipped into the jacket. Gingerly being the operative word, as this  was a fragile thing. But once it was on and I realised it wasn’t too skinny for me I was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of cool. Especially with the desert boots, polo shirt and jeans. This was Steve fucking McQueen cool.

Ok, in my dreams, but man did it feel good. I went out for a beer with a colleague that evening and she said I love your boots. Boots???? Yeah, ok I admit Clarks’ desert boots are unassailably cool, but what about the jacket. It’s a bloody Baracuta G9. The ‘real’ Harrington jacket. Steve McQueen wore this you know. In my head I was a bit taken back that the jacket went unmentioned. In my naive clothes obsessed way I was thinking people would recognise this thing of beauty, but I had to remind myself that I didn’t know only a few years earlier. Still, I got a compliment on my desert boots. Got to be grateful for that I guess.

After checking out the Baracuta website I realised they sold other Harrington style models. There was the G10, which has standard cut sleeves, as opposed to the G9’s Raglan sleeves, but the one for me was the G4. The G4 for me was the best of the three, because it didn’t have elasticated waist and cuffs, but instead hung parallel at the waist and has single cuff shirt style cuffs. The G4 was also the Harrington Robert Elms described in his The Way We Wore book.

But that’s not all the magical jacket wonders Baracuta had hidden up their sleeve. To celebrate being in business since 1937 Baracuta made a limited run of their jackets under the banner ‘Project 137‘.

Here they made the G9, G10 and G4 jackets, but using, as well as other fabrics, Millerain, a tough waxed fabric, and limiting each model to only 137 being made. These for me are the finest jackets Baracuta have made. Not just because of the beautifully tough Millerain cloth, but extra details, like tonal cord inner collar and pocket flaps, and (the best of all) leather elbow patches. Just check out this beautiful 137 Project G4. (Thanks to Stuarts of London for that picture. Though, they list this as a G9.)

Unfortunately it appears (to my research) Baracuta only made regular length in this 137 range, so us tall folk have to sit back enviously while the shorties get to swan around oozing Project 137 cool. I have to admit to a moment of madness and buying a G10 34 regular just to own it. It hangs in my cupboard, with its tags still attached, for me to look at and lovingly stoke that gorgeous Millerain cloth. I put it on occasionally, in the vain hope my arms have shrunk, but unfortunately it looks like I’ve been shopping at Herman Munster’s tailor. Also, with Project 137, Baracuta collaborated with other brands. I was doing my almost daily web search for people selling these little beauties when I discovered there was a G4 made from Harris Tweed. How fucking cool is that. I can just picture Steve McQueen playing Sherlock Holmes in this.

I did get myself another Harrington jacket recently (that’s three now I own), but this one was made by Crombie. Like all things Crombie it is incredibly well made, much better than my Baracuta G9, I sadly have to admit. It’s tougher, more generous in its length, much warmer, stitching is neater, pretty much everything about it is an improvement in quality over the Baracuta, but with all that improvement, it just don’t feel better. When I wear it I feel like I’m wearing a very beautiful coat, but that’s all it feels like. It does not feel like I’m wearing a Harrington. The detail that is wrong with the Crombie is the collars are too long, so they kind of hang and eventually lay flat, which is not how a true Harrington should behave. The lining is gold, so you don’t get that frisson of cool tartan flash as the wind blows the jacket open. It is a bloody Crombie though, and as long as I don’t think I’m wearing a Harrington I feel comfortable in such a well-made jacket. Plus, it has Crombie stamped into the buttons. That’s gotta be a few points on the cool scale.

I spoke too soon. In the time it has taken me to get around to finishing this entry Harrington number four showed up only this morning. Another Baracuta G9, but this time it’s a demin blue one. This one will definitely be harder to match with jeans, as it really is denim blue, but I luckily have a few pairs of brand new Levi’s that are still dark enough not to cause conflict. It would go with my chinos too, but they are on a bit of a hiatus until this current IVY fad has passed.

At the time of posting I am still constantly checking for that elusive G4, or G10, in 44L. Somehow I don’t think it ever existed, but I do live in hope. Take CERN for example. They spent quite a few quid to build a Large Hadron Collider to look for something that might not have existed, but they built it anyway. Well that’s enough motivation for me, so I’m not gonna give up hope either. Maybe, one day, a Baracuta designer might read this and get inspired to make another limited run, but for tall people this time. I truly live in hope.