A Complete Guide to the Harrington Jacket
Let’s start with a little story about why I think the Harrington jacket is so cool.
Steve McQueen is for me, like so many other self-professed style nerds, the ultimate ‘cool guy.’ And for my money, he was never cooler than than he was in The Thomas Crown Affair. The entire movie oozes cool. The soundtrack. The quick-editing in the intro. And, truly, who doesn’t love a good heist movie?
But, what really stood out for me was the glider scene. Everything from the stunning location, to the cinematography, to the way the cockpit of the glider opens up and McQueen pops out like he does this every damn weekend. Sure, his three-piece suit with the blue-lensed Persol 714 sunglasses are one of the most iconic sartorial outfits in movie history, but I want to dig a little more into the jacket he’s wearing that scene: the Harrington Jacket.
What Is A Harrington Jacket?
The jacket we now call the ‘Harrington’ actually comes from the world of golf. In the 1930’s, British company Baracuta put together a lightweight jacket with dual zippers, elastic wrist and waistbands, and slanted slide pockets with buttons. It had a tartan cotton lining, a water-resistant shell, and a neat back detail that allowed rain to drop off so you wouldn’t get soaked out on the links.
At the same time, though, Grenfell came out with a nearly identical piece based on their own golf jackets. While we can’t say for certain which can rightly claim the title of the originator of the jacket, it should be pretty clear by now the G in G9 stands for ‘golf.’
FURTHER READING: More Lightweight Outerwear for Spring
Perhaps as an extension of their parents’ leisure activities and the upper-crust history of the game, college students in the 1950s took the jacket off the course and onto campus as a quintessential piece of Ivy League style.
Elvis Presley shook things up when he wore one in 1958’s King Creole. It quickly evolved from a preppy staple into mod style standard. But, the name ‘Harrington’ actually came from a character on the soap opera Peyton Place.
Since that time, the jacket has been seen on screen icons like McQueen and James Dean, as well as music legends like Eric Clapton and Liam Gallagher of Oasis.
Regardless of who’s wearing it, the Harrington jacket has become a bona fide piece of style history.
How Should A Harrington Jacket Fit?
Whatever you call it (the name “Harrington jacket ” actually isn’t trademarked), one of these jackets should fit a certain way. The original models have a raglan-style sleevehead, so you don’t have be as concerned with finding a seam to sit on your shoulder bone. Of greater importance is the length and body. The hem should hit right at your hips, but not become cropped when you lift your arms. It’s not a great look to have it riding up at the top of your backswing.
The chest and body is an area for some debate. Streetwear dudes may rock an oversized cut, but we like a closer, streamlined fit more in line with how it was originally worn in the 50s.
Of course, close isn’t the same thing as tight. You should have plenty of room in the body so you can swing your arms and pull a few inches of fabric out from either side. If you happen to be looking at a Baracuta G9, take the same size in you wear in your OTR clothing. A 40, for example, translates to a US Medium.
How To Wear A Harrington Jacket
Much like McQueen himself, this piece is a workhorse and comfortable dressed up or down. I’ve put together three looks to give you some ideas on how to style a Harrington jacket.
1. Business Casual With A Twist
While many of us don’t have the need for daily coat and tie like we once did, it’s nice to get out and do it every now and again. Here, though, I’ve used the Harrington in place of the classic navy blazer. It gives some of the ‘menswear uniform’ vibe without slipping into ‘security guard look’ territory. A grenadine tie and solid pair of loafers round out the look.
2. The Full McQueen
I mentioned at the beginning how I much I dig the King of Cool’s look in the glider scene in Thomas Crown, so I tried to recreate it here as best I could. You might not have a Schweizer glider to tool around with at the weekend, but this look works for anything from a grocery errand to a casual coffee date.
3. American Classic
These jackets were adopted by Ivy-leaguers throughout the late-fifties and early 1960s. My take is a classic OCBD, some mid-weight denim, and a comfortable pair of loafers. Simple. Easy.
Best Harrington Jackets for Men
Is a Harrington Jacket Right For You?
The Harrington jacket has been an outerwear staple from punk rockers to James Dean to Elvis and Steve McQueen. As we’ve seen, it’s just as easy to dress up as down. The weight makes it supremely versatile for most seasons, and the silhouette is flattering for just about every body type. There are few guys a Harrington jacket won’t work for.
Of course, how much to invest in one is entirely up to you. If you have the means, you’ll get considerable mileage out of an original Baracuta G9. But, even a mid-tier model can go far in the sartorial world since it’s such a universal style.
However, no matter which you choose, it’s well worth it.
Thanks for reading.
He Spoke Style