This is Spring’s Perfect Jacket

This is Spring’s Perfect Jacket
It's pretty impressive that both nerdy Clark Kent and suave superspy James Bond wear the same spring jacket style.

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.

The Harrington jacket is a waterproof waist-length, zippered jacket with a stand-up collar, snap-button throat latch, elasticized cuffs and waistband, slanted flap pockets, and a distinctive tartan lining.

What is a harrington jacket: raglan sleeves, stand collar, double vertical pockets, cotton-poly fabric, ribbed cuffs and waist, double slider zipper

Originally designed for golfers in the 1930s by the British brand Baracuta, the colloquially known “Harrington,” named after a character that famously wore one in the 60s, has certainly always belonged in the old-school preppy aesthetic, but it was also revived time and again by the UK counterculture scenes of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s like mods, punks, and hipsters.

harrington jacket outfit inspiration with white t-shirt, jeans, and black boots
Worn with a pocket tee, straight fit Levi's 501 and a chunky chelsea boot

But the Harrington – a jacket style that officially falls under the category of a “blouson” – was not just for golfers, 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.

“Blouson” 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 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.

james dean in a harrington jacket in rebel without a cause
James Dean in one of the earliest and most celebrated of the Harrington's many Hollywood appearances.

Rebel With a Jacket

James Dean famously donned a McGregor Drizzler jacket, an American counterpart to the British Harrington jacket, in 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 plain white T-shirt.

jacket from rebel without a cause

Famous Men Wearing a Harrington Jacket

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.

elvis wearing a harrington jacket production still from King Creole, a hal willis production
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 thomas crown affair wearing a blue harrington jacket
Steve McQueen in the 1968 film Thomas Crowne Affair wearing 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 (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 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.

christopher reeve in Superman II wearing a tan Harrington jacket
Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent wearing a Harrington jacket in 1980's Superman II

Almost 30 years later, Daniel Craig's James Bond donned this slimmer cut Tom Ford version worn in 2008's “Quantum of Solace“. It's pretty impressive that both nerdy Clark Kent and suave superspy James Bond wear the same spring jacket style.

Daniel Craig James Bond Harrington Jacket from 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

But the Harrington isn't just a costume for unique and retro characters. Theo James' refined, everyday casual style in Netflix's recent “The Gentlemen” proves it can be worn in a smart casual way.

theo james wearing a harrington jacket in The Gentlemen

Jeremy Strong's Kendall Roy from Succession wears a suede version to create a neutral-toned, refined casual style.

suede harrington from succession

And if after all that you're still not convinced that a regular guy can rock the Harrington, everyman Bill Burr in Old Dads shows it's an easy jacket to wear with anything:

bill burr wearing a harrington jacket

The 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 Baracuta owners John and Isaac Miller of Manchester 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.

Baracuta jacket label
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.

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.

green harrington jacket with white t-shirt and levi's 501

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 or hoodie, simply replace your sports coat with it.

harrington jacket with business casual outfit
My green Harrington was a deal find from Uniqlo several years ago. It's still held up great. Proof you can dress well on a budget without buying clothes that fall apart.

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 $400+ for Baracuta's original is too steep or you're looking for different details, here are some of the best:

If you're looking for a water repellent compromise with a classical design (down to the tartan lining), Bonobos offers one for $199:

bonobos harrington jacket

If you like the silhouette of the Harrington but not a fan of the windbreaker material, Levi's makes one out of cotton:

cotton canvas harrington jacket from levis

Weatherproof Vintage offers a handful of colors without the tartan lining for a budget price:

weatherproof harrington style jacket

Barbour, the English brand known for their waxed canvas jackets, also makes a waxed canvas Harrington jacket:

Huckberry sells a suede version of the Baracuta G9, which would make a great alternative to a suede bomber or racer jacket:

a suede harrington jacket

If you're looking to splurge, the English-made Private White VC Harrington made out of Ventile cotton is a beauty:

green harrington jacket from Private White
Pyung Kim

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.