Now that spring has arrived it’s time to lighten (and brighten) your wardrobe.
And a good place to start is with outerwear. That means it’s time to transition away from heavier winter coats (such as pea coats and top coats) to outerwear pieces made from more lightweight materials such as cotton and synthetics.
In a previous article I discussed five stylish spring jacket options. In this article I want to focus on just one: the Harrington jacket.
The Harrington jacket has been an iconic menswear piece for more than 60 years, and rightfully so. It is a fantastic option for the spring season.
Although its not entirely clear it’s believed that the first Harrington jacket was made by the English outerwear company Baracuta sometime in the 1930s.
Back then Baracuta specialized in rainwear and the Harrington jacket was initially designed to keep golfers dry. In fact, the “G” in the original Baracuta G9 jacket stands for golf. The unique design of the jacket (specifically the back yoke) allowed rain to run away from it much like an umbrella.
For those of you curious about the origins of the name Harrington it actually comes from the TV character played by Ryan O’Neal in the 1960s called Rodney Harrington who wore this type of jacket routinely in the series Peyton Place.
In the 1950s the Harrington jacket made its way stateside and quickly became a staple of the ivy league/preppy look.
The jacket gained a lot of traction and popularity in America during this era when notable celebrities such as James Dean, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, and Elvis Presley donned the jacket both on the big screen and in real life.
Today, Harrington jackets are experiencing a revival in popularity and understandably so, they are a great lightweight jacket for the spring season.
Characteristics of a Harrington Jacket
There are a lot of different jackets on the market claiming to be Harrington jackets when they are not. The following is a list of features characteristic of bona fide Harrington jacket to help clear up any confusion:
- Waist length
- Full zip with two buttoned flap pockets on the front cut at 45 degrees
- Buttoned band collar
- Elastic cuff and waist
- Made of cotton or a cotton-poly blend
- Tartan lining
The Harrington jacket that I own is from Scotch and Soda (which is no longer available). As you can see from the image below it hits pretty much all of the design elements of a classic Harrington jacket (angled buttoned pockets, band collar, elastic cuff and waistband etc.).
However, the two exceptions with this jacket are that 1) it is completely synthetic (not a cotton or cotton-poly blend) and 2) it does not have a traditional tartan lining. In fact, this particular model is reversible. However, the pattern of the jacket on the inside is so hideous that I would not recommend wearing it.
In fact, when I bought this jacket it reminded me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry bought that expensive suede jacket with the ugly candy striped lining.
Much like Jerry I loved the outer shell of the Scotch and Soda jacket but was less than enthused about the lining. Nevertheless, I ended up purchasing the jacket on sale a year ago and haven’t worn the reversible side at all.
How to wear the Harrington Jacket
Depending on the type of Harrington jacket you buy I recommend wearing it with casual pieces such as denim jeans and chinos.
This is not a type of jacket that you can pull off easily with a pair of nice wool trousers and wingtips. While it can be done you really need to know what you’re doing. Sometimes it’s easier to play it a little safe.
Here are some ideas:
And here’s an example of how I would NOT wear the jacket:
This is definitely a more “trendy” look these days but not something that fits with my personality or style. While the Harrington jacket has been co-opted by many different subcultures over the years I still think it looks best paired with classic pieces such as chinos and oxford shirts.
If you’re looking to wear the jacket with a bit more edge then pair it with a plain v-neck t-shirt, denim jeans, and your favourite desert boots. Let your confidence do the rest.
The best Harrington jackets on the market
If you are in the market for a Harrington jacket and want the absolute best jacket that money can buy then I recommend sticking with the original Baracuta G9:
J.Crew is currently selling this jacket for ~$400 US. Pricey to be sure, but the quality is second to none.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a Harrington jacket that has the look of a traditional Baracuta G9 but minus the hefty price tag then I recommend looking at the Gilmour Harrington Jacket from British clothier Merc:
The good news is that this jacket retails for about ~$120 US which is considerably cheaper than the Baracuta G9. The bad news is that you’d need to have it shipped internationally if you’re not in the United Kingdom. Fortunately, Merc does offer free international shipping on any orders over $180 US.
Lastly, if you’re just looking for a budget piece with the right aesthetics then you might want to check out the Lightweight Harrington Jacket from the Gap:
The quality will not be anywhere near the Baracuta G9 or the Merc jackets but if you’re just looking for something that fits in the same general class of jackets then this one can do the trick. It comes in two colours: red and navy. I’m partial to the navy but I have yet to see it in person. The jacket retails for $79 US but you can probably scoop it up for less when the Gap runs a sale.
The Harrington jacket is a great lightweight option for the spring season. It’s a classy jacket with a ton of history and will definitely get you noticed for the right reasons.
Here’s to looking sharp!