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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.