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What do you get when you cross an accountant with a zoologist? A profitable zoo, maybe? No, you get the camel coat. Lewis Tomalin was a British accountant inspired by Dr Gustav Jaeger’s theory that wearing animal fibres was in fact, a salubrious predilection. So, Tomalin named his brand after the zoologist and, in 1919, released the camel coat. To this day, the coat retains the gravitas, sophistication and status it had upon launch. Its double-breasted front, large lapels, camel hair construction, and gauntlet cuffs give decadent warmth and a billowy sense of status. But the sheer versatility and classic style of this coat keep it relevant for a man’s wardrobe today. Like a perfectly charming gentleman, it uplifts and exalts everything it is near. 

Brief History of the Camel Coat

Originally, the coat was termed a “polo coat” (or a “wait” coat or a “wrap” coat) since it was used to wrap up polo players to keep them warm between matches. After WWI, the style graduated into Ivy League colleges in America and became popular throughout the 20s. WWII depleted materials, and the rarified camel hair was sought out again. The 80s were a boom time for the banking world as deregulation set in, and the camel coat became a symbol of panache and status. Its impeccable ability to complement tailoring certainly didn’t hinder its cherished status in the City.

The Fabric

Camel hair is taken from the fibres of Bactrian camels native to Central Asia when they shed their coat each spring. Their hair is soft, luxurious, thermo-regulating, insulating and extremely comfortable. However, it fleeces out quite quickly and is often blended 50% with virgin wool to achieve perfect synchronicity of durability and softness. Plenty of 100% camel hair coats are still made today, yet the term now mainly refers to a long coat in a soft fabric with lapels and a camel tone (beige, sandy-brown). That means it can blur into a few other coat styles, i.e. trench, Chesterfield, car coat, peacoat, overcoat, topcoat, or duffle.

The Modern Camel Coat

The timeless appeal of an original camel coat is unmatched, and that’s because it has always been luxurious. Apologies for the cliché, but this coat might be the Rolls Royce of coats. In its modern interpretation, it retains its wealthy aura, but the high street and general loosening of dress codes have democratised it. It can be worn now to add panache and formality to slouchy outfits.

But why buy this exotic haired-relic of a polo-playing era? Well, quite simply, the camel coat is a fantastic investment piece. The weight of the fabric, the tailored silhouette, its timeless and decadent style, and its ability to be worn with many different outfits mean that the coat is worth the extra expense. The camel coat is still one of the suavest luxury items in the menswear roster, and if you make this purchase, expect compliments.

How to Style a Camel Coat

It elevates everything. From a nonchalant pair of joggers, sweaters, and trainers combo, to a three-piece suit. It will always bring heat to your outfit (literally, too). The camel tone makes it easy to style. It goes with white, navy, grey, green, brown, and charcoal. For these reasons, it makes styling with a suit look incredible. But also means there aren’t many casual outfits it won’t work with. Styling using black pieces is a debatable area. It’s not a hard no, but I like to keep black elements to a minimum in an outfit with a camel coat. Perhaps just a pair of black chunky loafers or derbies.

So, let us go through the layers of formality to see how you can style it.

camel coat with casual clothing

The Casual

Try navy jogging bottoms with white chunky trainers and socks for a casual outfit. Then underneath the camel coat, a white t-shirt and a sweater. Accessorise to elevate as well. Perhaps with a navy or ecru cap and classic black or tortoiseshell RayBan wayfarers. 

Things to consider:

You can get away with dressing like a slob when you have a camel coat over your shoulders. It’s a one-way ticket out of negative, slobby perception.

camel coat with knitwear
Image from Ralph Lauren

The Smart-Casual

For a smart-casual outfit, try blending tailoring and knitwear. Black derbies with camel tone argyle pattern socks matching the v-neck argyle knitwear camel tone on top. If the argyle knit has green to match the green suit trousers below, even better. Fasten the trousers with a black leather belt and wear a pink or white collared shirt underneath the knitwear. This outfit has a tasteful modern-retro feel.

Things to consider:

Try chinos in white, brown, beige, and navy for bottoms. A camel coat can harness jeans across the full indigo spectrum. Personally, ecru or even white jeans match wonderfully with the camel tone. Pleated trousers, or suit pants, can be in similar tones to the chinos while also considering a pastel or dark green shade. 

camel coat worn formal with suit
Image from He Spoke Style

The Formal

The camel coat works extraordinarily well with tailoring. It goes with brown, green, navy, and grey, all of the generic suit choices,cloaks them in a veil of style, and is perfect winter office commuter material or perhaps saved for a Thursday or Friday. A day you might well be heading out to dinner.

Things to consider:

I’m hesitant about saying to avoid styling with a black suit altogether because people out there probably regularly pull it off and look suave. However, I would not.

Best Camel Coat Picks

Gucci Aria Camel Hair Coat

Gucci Aria Camel Hair Coat

Gucci is a fine first stop when looking for a) investment pieces and b) sartorial power plays. This coat is what is meant by timeless style. The exacting lines of the garment through the three-button, single-breasted silhouette and the flap pockets suggest you measure self-control. Meanwhile, the large notched lapels and the unctuous satin lining suggest flair and pomposity. This sophisticated 100% camel hair coat is a lifetime investment.

Paul Smith Wool-Cashmere Epsom Coat

Paul Smith Wool-Cashmere Epsom Coat

Paul Smith is an institution. The brand is always one of my favoured first stops for anything tailoring or formalwear related because it does ageless formal menswear with a twist. The twist with this camel coat is that there is no twist; it’s just premium clothing at its best. The fabric is 90% wool and 10% cashmere giving it a decadent feel. The lapels have a swooping peaked shape with ample volume to make this a statement piece, whether it’s tracksuit bottoms underneath or tailored suit trousers.

Valentino Double-Breasted Camel-Wool Overcoat

Valentino Double-Breasted Camel-Wool Overcoat

This Valentino coat has a double-breasted construction, six-button closure, and voluminous notched lapels. The 100% pressed camel hair makes this coat ideally saved for very special occasions since the camel hair is delicate. Valentino has given this piece a unique dropped shoulder silhouette to bring about a modern, draped fit. This coat is classic in design, luxurious in feel, and contemporary in fit.

BOSS Double-Breasted Coat

BOSS Double-Breasted Coat

Though sitting at the affordable end of the spectrum, this coat is no less stylish. The wool is responsibly sourced and respects the five freedoms of animal welfare. It is then blended with 10% cashmere for an extra silky smooth finish and added insulation. Other details, such as the perimeter stitching on the notched lapels, the front darts, the flapped pockets and the symmetrical four-button double-breasted closing, bring a debonair aesthetic and fit.

Suit Supply Double-Breasted Coat

Suit Supply Double-Breasted Coat

This coat is extravagant. The 100% camel hair woven in Corrado, Italy gives it authenticity, warmth and cosiness. The 6-on-2 formation gives the coat a nice sense of shape and curvature as it hugs your natural form. The open side pockets give it relaxed confidence. Finally, the fabric appears to be quite lightweight, making it perfect to be worn in the spring, summer and autumn.

The Harrington jacket was designed for golf, vaunted by Hollywood, and donned by the counterculture. Now, almost a century after its launch, it is a bonafide icon of rugged masculine style.

A Brief History of the Harrington Jacket

Like all good stories, it begins with conflict. There are two claims for the invention of the Harrington jacket. However, since no company kept official records of this time, it’s impossible to know fact from fiction on these two claims. 

The first is Grenfell. In 1922, Walter Haythornethwaite was running his fathers’ fabric mill near Manchester when a Dr Grenfell visited. A medical expert working in far-flung places, often treating people battling the cold. He requested a fabric be constructed from a windproof material that is “permeable to perspiration” but able to keep people warm. Walter toiled at the idea before creating one of extremely tight woven Egyptian cotton. Grenfell loved it so much that he suggested it be named after him. This same fabric, alongside a house tartan lining, is used for the Grenfell Harrington jacket, said to date back to 1931.

The second claim comes from the brothers that founded Baracuta, John and Isaac Millar. The pair had been making raincoats in the gloomy city of Manchester (known as “Cottonopolis” at the time) since 1917 and supplied Aquascutum and Burberry, among others. As the business grew, it afforded them access to exclusive social scenes, such as the Manchester Golf Club. However, the macs they produced got in the way of a smooth club swing and so (perhaps to impress their new peers), they set about creating a new jacket.

The Iconic Baracuta G7

In 1937, John and Isaac invented the Baracuta G7 Jacket (G for golf), which was cinched at the waist to allow for an easy swing. It would later become known as the “swing jacket” in Japan. The Baracuta brothers had previously met Lord Lovat at the golf club and requested the use of his family’s tartan to line the jacket. Lovat, the 24th Chieftain of Clan Fraser, and a man Churchill had called “the handsomest man to cut a throat”, accepted. The new tartan lining gave the jacket instant prestige.

In 1950, Baracuta began exporting to the US. It became famous in the golfing celebrity quarters, worn by Arnold Palmer, Gary Player (an excellent name for an American golf enthusiast), and Ronald Reagan. It wasn’t long before US imitations were made, and the jacket was beginning to transcend the green. 

Cultural Adoption of the Harrington Jacket

The appearance of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) was the first indication of its impact on men’s style of the time. James wore a custom-made bolt red jacket designed by costume designer Moss Mabry in the style of a Harrington jacket. It epitomised the swooning rugged machismo that would come to define the jacket. From there, Elvis Presley wore one in King Creole (1958), Steve McQueen wore one in his famous Life Magazine shoot in 1963 (months before the release of The Great Escape), and Frank Sinatra wore one in Assault on a Queen (1966). Hollywood drank up the Harrington Jacket.

But the jacket didn’t get its official “Harrington” name until 1966 when John Simmons, a Baracuta retailer, marketed it as the eponymous Rodney Harrington Jacket. Named after the character in TV Show Peyton’s Place.

skinheads from this is england wearing a harrington jacket

Over in the UK, the sixties saw it become a staple of the Mod style. The seventies saw punks, skinheads, and Mod Revivalists adopt the jacket. In the eighties, we even saw The Clash reverberating Times Square wearing personalised Baracuta G9 jackets. While skinheads were wearing G9s inside out, showing off the tartan lining.

Music has been a consistent backdrop to this jacket, but the Harrington wasn’t and isn't just for musicians. Actors like Tom Hardy, Bradley Cooper, and even political leaders like JFK, have all worn the Harrington through the ages. Its appeal has snowballed into a cultural signifier of tough but cool masculinity. 

To say the Harrington jacket is back in 2023 would be a lie. It never left. And that’s partly because of its practicality. It suits spring, summer and autumn because of its lightweight structure, breathability, shower-proofing, and cropped waist. At nearly a hundred years old, the Harrington jacket is just as sexy now as ever.

Notable Harrington Jacket Brands

Baracuta

baracuta harrington jacket

The “G9”, an update of the OG "G7", was officially relaunched in 2013 and is now made in the UK again. The fabric is a cotton-poly blend with a Coolmax tartan lining. It uses an oval polyester fabric to help wick sweat and moisture more effectively than absorbent cotton or a standard spherical polyester blend. The Baracuta G9 is an original classic, and though expensive, it is extremely well-made. Expect aficionados to nod with approval.

Grenfell

grenfell harrington jacket

Claiming to be the oldest inception of the Harrington jacket, this original 30s design is an excellent choice. Still making use of the tough, waterproof and breathable Egyptian cotton fabric made for Dr Grenfell all that time ago. It remains timeless in its aesthetic.

Fred Perry

fred perry harrington jacket

When the Harrington Jacket returned to Britain’s cultural heartlands through various sub-cults in the seventies and eighties, one brand stood out as a natural brand for them. Fred Perry was seen worn by reggae lovers, ska-groovers, punks, and “passionate fans” on the football terraces. There’s a good reason the brand’s famous laurel wreath logo looks at home on the Harrington Jacket's chest; the brand describes itself as the “uniform for the non-uniform.”

Burberry

burberry harrington jacket

Nothing says British heritage like Burberry. Burberry began in 1856 when Thomas Burberry opened a store selling outerwear in Basingstoke. Since then, and the subsequent adoption of the “Burberry check” in the late 60s, the brand has become a focal point of British high fashion. Through this Ramie Harrington Jacket, the experimental fashionable spirit is evidently alive and well. Notice the generous flapped pockets with a smart logo embossed on the left-hand side. Also, the chic leather zip pull and the two-textured elasticated hem. This is a Harrington jacket that pays attention to the finer details.

Private White VC

The Ventile® Harrington 3.0

Private White VC are a brand older than Baracuta, or even Burberry, having started life in a factory in Manchester in 1853. The brand prides itself on handmade, high-quality garments still being crafted in Manchester. So, as well as the brand’s Harrington having a legitimate heritage connection to the silhouette, it brings novel stylistic nuance. The collar features a beautiful cord lining, and the buttons and zip are military-grade copper giving resilience and a wonderful aesthetic, and finally, the slit pockets make for a modern sleek finish. The Ventile cotton fabric is the natural predecessor to the Grenfell cotton fabric. It utilises super long cotton fibres for a tight weave and is designed to save the lives of pilots falling into icy waters, and its natural waterproofing makes it a good choice for outerwear. But mostly, it’s the simple beauty of this jacket that will draw one in.

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