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A Harrington jacket (originally known only as a Baracuta jacket or a G9) is a lightweight, waist-length jacket made of cotton, polyester, wool or suede. Designs often incorporate traditional Fraser tartan or checkerboard-patterned lining.
The first Harrington-style jackets were claimed to be made in the 1930s by the British clothing company, Baracuta. Baracuta's original design, the G9, is still in production. The British company Grenfell, previously known as Haythornthwaite and Sons, also claims to have invented an identical jacket around the same time based on their golf jackets which is also still in production using their own signature cotton. The Harrington from either original source is based on lightweight, roomy jackets worn to play golf hence the G in the G4 or G9 naming convention for Baracuta. Both versions were originally made in Lancashire, England. Baracuta originally manufactured their jacket in Manchester whereas Grenfell were based in Burnley then London.
Elvis Presley popularized the Baracuta G9 in his 1958 movie King Creole. The jacket got the nickname "Harrington" from a character in the 1960s prime time soap opera, Peyton Place. The character in question, Rodney Harrington (played by Ryan O'Neal), is often depicted in a Harrington jacket. It is often claimed that British menswear retailer John Simons christened the jacket originally on a tag casually when for sale in his shop with its name based temporarily on the TV character.
Steve McQueen, James Dean and Frank Sinatra were photographed wearing Harrington-style jackets in films and their personal lives. In the US, the McGregor produced Drizzler jacket was an alternative jacket in the same design. The lower-cost version by Van Heusen was also highly popular in the mid 20th-century era within the US though it is no longer produced. This is also true of a version by London Fog.
The jacket was seen on visiting USA servicemen after World War II and was adopted as a light, modern jacket by the emerging style-conscious youth during the 1950s. As the Mod scene became more casual and widely adopted, the jacket became popular amongst those identifying as part of that style subculture. When guitarist Eric Clapton felt that The Yardbirds Rhythm & Blues Mod band he played in was becoming long-haired and foppish, he cut his hair short, wore a classic Harrington and rolled-up jeans inspired by the USA casual college look he had seen on USA servicemen when visiting his mother in Germany. This look was seen on TV in July 1964 and is referenced widely as a key subcultural style moment prior to his leaving the band. The jacket became part of Mod wear as that scene became increasingly casualised and stripped down in its mid-1960s later adoptees wearing more polo tops and t-shirts with the jacket. This look became known informally as the 'Peanut' and was part of the progression towards the early skinhead look. This trend carried the adoption of the jacket on through the Mods and Skinheads, including their short-lived Suedehead later smart incarnation.
The jacket became fashionable in the United Kingdom in the 1960s among mods and skinheads. These subcultures adopted it as a USA jacket broadly seen in popular media and were largely unaware of its British origins. They enjoyed a resurgence in the late 1970s and early 1980s with skinhead and mod revivalists, as well as old and new fans of Northern soul and scooterboys which had both evolved in part onwards from the original Mod scene as specialist areas of focus that became their own subculture. Within those subcultures, Harringtons are often, though in no way exclusively, worn with Fred Perry or Ben Sherman shirts. By the mid-1970s it may be seen more with bowling and polo shirts than its original wear.
Its adoption was carried onwards by Punks in the late 1970s, fans of Indie rock in the 1980s and 1990s. A further revival of the jacket was associated with the mid-1990s rise of Brit Pop with it worn by Damon Albarn of Blur, Oasis and other bands. Britpop style combined Mod fashion with casual sport streetwear. Following the Britpop revival the jacket featured prominently in a light blue version worn by the lead character Gavin played by Matthew Horne on Gavin and Stacey in British BBC TV during the late 2000s. The jacket is an enduring style staple, seen regularly on Mod rock artist Paul Weller through his career and worn by such as the actor Martin Freeman who is a Mod style advocate. Inspired by such as Paul Weller, Liam Gallagher of Oasis co-founded menswear label Pretty Green based on 1960s style originally which includes their version of the Harrington jacket.
Most jackets in the style worn by subcultures were not the original manufacturers with cheaper versions available by high street retailers, on market stalls, in Army & General stores and later on the internet. General USA menswear retailers such as Gap, L L Bean or Lands End will usually have a generic version of the jacket.
In France, HARRINGTON has been a registered trademark since 1985. though in key markets such as UK, USA and Japan the term 'harrington' is used by many companies.
In 2007, Baracuta released three special edition G9 jackets with quotes by Presley, McQueen, and Sinatra printed on the lining to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the brand.
In Canada and the US, this style and fabric type of lightweight jacket has traditionally been referred to for well over half a century by most shoppers as the quintessential "spring jacket", and it has thus been marketed by mass retailers like K-Mart, Bi-Way, Target, Zellers, Eatons, Sears and their contemporaries as simply "the spring jacket".
Advocates of USA 'Ivy League' style clothing are fans of the jacket which is part of its staple wardrobe. Books such as Take Ivy covering USA university campus wear in the mid-1960s show the jacket. The association with American Ivy League and classic British menswear has also made the Harrington popular in Japan, especially in the original heritage brands of Baracuta, Brooks Brothers and Grenfell plus British original brands such as Paul Smith and Aquascutum (now Japanese owned) who are popular there in addition to Harringtons from local companies including Uniqlo and Beams.
Over time the jacket has become merged to a degree with the generically collared windcheater, so the jacket may not always have the raised double button collar, ribbed cuff and waist or internal Tartan pattern that is intrinsic to the original design. These will likely not be considered truly as a 'Harrington' by those looking for the original form. The popular version sold by USA menswear outdoor clothing retailer London Fog had a combined form with the upper raised collar but the windcheater body. The collared version often called a Windcheater is the version sold by popular USA companies such as Ralph Lauren, Gant, Woolrich and Tommy Hilfiger. Brooks Brothers make their own version. O'Connell's sell a US-made 'Baracuta' Harrington in their own name. Ben Silver sells the original Grenfell. Luxury British clothier Burberry also uses both the Harrington and windcheater style with the Harrington name. The term Harrington may be used interchangeably leading to some confusion.
The jacket was worn by Daniel Craig as Agent 007 in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace in a new black design by Tom Ford. The British clothing company Barbour has been inventive with the jacket introducing versions with elements from their traditional country clothing and incorporating motorbike rider styling in their Steve McQueen inspired collections. Similarly, many modern interpretations now use different materials, treatments, colours and patterns to update the classic jacket with a bespoke version. However, it is the original style in navy blue or stone/beige that endures beyond fashions as the style reference point.
There are many hundreds of variants available from companies such as Orvis in the US, Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, Private White VC (based in Manchester and one of the original makers of the Harrington for various brands), Lacoste, Levis, Lyle & Scott, Viyella, Le Coq Sportif, Farah Clothing, Sunspel, Gloverall (famous for their duffle coats), Peter Christian, French Connection and new high-end in-country manufacture companies. additionally, there are many low-cost imitators online that have the look superficially but often at far lower quality than the original basis of production. The subcultural association continues with a range of heritage labels mentioned already plus own label productions from such as Tootal, Jump The Gun, Gabicci, Merc, Original Penguin, Mapcap, Ben Nevis and many others.
The Harrington in both its original and windcheater related form remain popular for golf with many specific brands producing versions for the sport. Of note in this area is enduring British heritage brand Wolsey who have produced versions made in Leicester, England for decades that are popular for both menswear and golf. Scottish knitwear companies Lyle & Scott and Pringle also have developed their own Harringtons based on earlier golf jackets from their heritage. Many Harringtons evolve from sporting heritage as seen in tennis jacket origins of Harringtons rather than golf at Fred Perry, Lacoste and Le Coq Sportif.
Over time the pure cotton basis of the original jacket has often given way to include become a polyester mix at lower customer prices to enhance the water resistance of the jacket, although the dense cotton count of the originals meant they already had this quality at a higher price point.
Fans of the original jacket in its various brands may search out new old stock or vintage items via online marketplaces or vintage shops. Baracuta, Grenfell, and McGregor, in particular, all have loyal fans who seek out their original jackets.
The Harrington is a recurring reference point for enduring style and subcultural cool that endures beyond fashions after four decades. It continues to be interpreted and reproduced continually with new versions issued every year. Its comparable simplicity, lightness, ability to be reinterpreted and variation at differing cost points produces opportunities for it to reconnect across successive decades and trends. Even if its origins can sometimes be lost after the length of time it has been produced, the original form and two manufacturers of Baracuta who are most known about and Grenfell remain the original reference point for them all.
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