The Harrington Jacket – How to Wear It, History, & Affordable Picks

A series of retrospectives on the most storied and timeless styles in men's fashion.
The Harrington Jacket - How to Wear It, History, & Affordable Picks

Jacket by Todd Snyder / More shopping options below!

Reflecting on menswear tradition is not just for fashion nerds indulging in sartorial nostalgia. Understanding the origin and evolution of certain aspects of men’s fashion (like we detailed with The History of Tweed) gives us valuable insight as to which styles stand the test of time – and why.

There is arguably no other jacket in the world of menswear that simultaneously embodies effortless “cool” and “buttoned-up” prep as well as the Harrington jacket, which has become a sartorial symbol of refined, yet rugged masculinity.

harrington jacket outfit inspiration

Rebel With a Jacket

James Dean famously donned the Harrington jacket the 1955 film “Rebel Without a Cause”, in which he gave it a defiant, uncouth flair by wearing it half zipped, showing off another style symbol of ‘50s youth: the T-shirt.

One of the earliest and most celebrated of the Harrington’s many Hollywood appearances

While the Harrington has certainly always belonged in the old-school preppy aesthetic, it was also revived time and again by the UK counterculture scenes of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.

Topper Headon of the Clash (second from right) rocking a Harrington jacket

But the Harrington – known in the early days as a “Blouson” – was not just for rockers and rebels. Sometimes also referred to as a golf jacket or windbreaker, the Harrington jacket has also been the casual outerwear of choice among many US Presidents whenever they eschewed the suit and tie. JFK wore it while sailing, Bill Clinton almost made it his unofficial trademark, and it was often George W. Bush’s choice for when he was “out in the field”, addressing first responders or aircraft carriers.

Bush in a more conservative “Byron” collared Harrington

By the way – “Blouson” might sound a bit girly for what has become such a manly style staple, but the origin of the word is not gender specific, and is derived from the French Proveçal dialect for “short wool”. What we call “Harrington” has come to be a bit of a generic umbrella term for a casual collared jacket that is loose, short, and/or cinched around the waist. You can count the World War II-era Flight Jacket as one of its relatives, and it’s also a cousin to similar styles like the Eisenhower or Bomber jacket. The lines between these styles have been somewhat blurred by the modern retail world so these monikers have become somewhat interchangeable. But we’re focusing here on the Harrington in the most traditional sense: lightweight, with a stand collar, ribbed or tapered waist, and slanted or vertical pockets.

What is a harrington jacket

The Harrington Hall of Fame

It didn’t all start with James Dean and JFK. To many, Elvis Presley’s turn in the “Blouson” jacket in the 1958 film “King Creole” is just as iconic.

One of the earliest kingmakers of the Harrington? The King himself

Frank Sinatra and Steve McQueen were so often photographed in the jacket in both their movies and personal lives that you could almost consider them unofficial ambassadors of the Harrington.

Steve McQueen in the original Baracuta G9, the jacket that started it all

In the 1960’s the jacket was famously worn by actor Ryan O’Neal in the primetime soap “Peyton Place” – and his character’s name was Rodney Harrington (hence the jacket’s nickname). But the man who should really be credited with the name “Harrington” catching on is John Simons, owner of the Ivy Shop, a trendsetting clothier in southwest London. After receiving the new G9 from Baracuta, Simons displayed it in his windows with a card attached to it. On the card he wrote “The Rodney Harrington Style”. After a while, he and his associates just started calling it the Harrington.

Pop culture icons like Ol’ Blue Eyes came to be so strongly associated with the jacket that in 2007, Baracuta celebrated their 70th anniversary by releasing a line of special edition G9 jackets with quotes by Presley, McQueen, and Sinatra printed on the lining

Even Arnold Palmer was so taken by the jacket that he collaborated with Baracuta when he launched his menswear collection in 1970. One of the more memorable pop culture appearances of the Harrington in recent years (and certainly the most badass) is this slimmer cut G4 version worn by Daniel Craig in 2008’s “Quantum of Solace”:

A battle-worn Harrington was especially fitting for Craig’s incarnation of 007: at the intersection of classic British elegance and rough-and-tumble rogue. Read our (00)7 Secrets to Bond’s Timeless Style

So Fly Like a G9

If we’re going to talk about the true origin of the Harrington (aka the classic Blouson), we must go back before its rebellious years to 1937, when John and Isaac Miller of Manchester, owners of the famous Baracuta company, first started making what they called the “G9 Blouson”, with its stand-up collar, knit cuffs and waist, and slanted flap pockets. Another distinctive feature of the G9 was its red and green tartan lining.

This plaid was signed off by Simon Fraser, 24th Lord of the prominent Highland Scottish Clan Fraser of Lovat – now that’s old school

At the time, Baracuta was known for its functional rainwear and was once a supplier to the British troops in 1945 and for England’s World Cup Champion team in 1966 – but when the G9 landed in the US, it quickly became their defining pièce de résistance. The durability and light insulation of the jacket has made it official issue for postal workers and firefighters, as well as the police departments of Germany, Austria, Israel, New Zealand, the UK, and the US.

The US Air Force supplies one to each President (with the official seal) to be worn on Air Force One, while the NYPD has been issuing a form of the jacket since 2010:

How to Wear a Harrington Jacket

The original G9 was designed for action (the “G” stands for golf). So you can look good in your Harrington even with a simple t-shirt and jeans (a la James Dean), and your favorite pair of boots or sneakers:

harrington jacket

One of the beauties of the Harrington is its versatility.  You can dress it down but it also goes great with chinos and polos or oxford button downs. And since the Harrington layers well and is a lightweight alternative to almost any jacket, simply replace your sports coat with it:

Where to Find a Harrington Jacket

The Harrington has never gone out of style. In fact, their original G9 is still in production. How’s that for timeless?

If $390 for Baracuta’s original is too steep, you can opt for a few similar styles at better prices:

If you’re looking for a water repellent compromise with a classical design (down to the mini tartan lining), Orvis offers one for $169.

ASOS has a great slim option for $56. Also available in green.

The Gap has a version for $80, closely inspired by the iconic originals.

You can score a Harrington with a more classic silhouette on Amazon from Warrior Clothing for as little as $20.

Click to the right to see more picks:

In addition to being an avid Primer reader, Pyung Kim is a Los-Angeles based writer / filmmaker who firmly believes that clothes and fit make the man.

  • Zac Silk

    I really like the minimal design of Harrington jackets. I own one in black and one in navy. I find that they’re really easy to pair with a lot of outfits and with the water repellent coating stand up to rain very well.

    I’m mulling over buying a third one in burgundy to branch out into different colours or a sand colour. Either way I still think they would be a good investment.

  • Serafin Nunez

    I always thought the Harrington was pretty lame… Leave it to Steve McQueen to change my mind…

    • rogun

      It is pretty lame, actually. It’s mostly just a plain jacket, except for the signature tartan lining. There’s nothing wrong with it, but the fashion world needs things to sell. Soon it’ll be the Eisenhower, again, and we’ll see pics of Daniel Craig making an Eisenhower jacket look cool.

  • Stephen P.

    The Levis jacket in the list is not a Harrington. You an get a great mid-priced Harrington with real English heritage from Fred Perry, Merc, or Pretty Green.

    • Zac Silk

      I’ve been thinking of going for one from Pretty Green. Have you tried them at all?

  • Joe Dopirak

    Target has one too that I got on sale for $20 in navy and khaki. Just looking for an army green one now: http://www.target.com/p/men-s-harrington-jacket-merona-153-red-m/-/A-51636554

  • Eric L.

    Great Article!
    Any idea what brand Daniel Craig is wearing? Probably out of my price-range. May have to try the ASOS jacket.

  • Joe Vax

    So why would I choose a Harrington over a bomber, or vice versa? If I were to just buy one (a nice one) should I choose one over the other? If I looked like Daniel Craig I’d definitely go for the G4 🙂

    • Zac Silk

      For me it just depends on the style. I personally own a bomber and a few Harringtons and I like the funnel collar of the Harrington more than a bomber collar.

      I’d be biased to choose a nice Harrington as most have a weather repellent coating but try both and see which you like better.

  • TJ

    Don’t forget to look at thrift stores. That’s where I found mine! It’s a knock off but it was a steal at $3