Indeed, the jacket’s popularity has not waned since it was first designed by John Miller in Manchester in 1937. Sam Preston of the Ordinary boys chose to step into the Big Brother limelight wearing one in beige, Thierry Henry sported his in the new Renault ad, Pete Doherty favours the item in blue while the Gallagher Brothers, Damon Albarn and Suggs of Madness have been dutiful aficionados for years.
“It is just so right for now,” says Esquire fashion director Catherine Hayward. “Clued up men of all ages are going for this much neater, much sharper almost vintage Ivy League silhouette and the Baracuta Harrington is the perfect answer.”
Initially christened the G9, the garment was principally created for the British golfing fraternity and - just like many other timeless garments, was a purely functional design that worked. The jacket now comes in two shapes – original and slim fit – both of which adhere entirely to the original template encompassing the five pointed umbrella back, the double buttoned funnel neck, the Frazer tartan lining and the elasticised waistband and cuffs – the only difference being that the slim fit, designed for the young skinny gadabout, is far leaner and less roomy that the original and comes in 23 different shades including brown, pink, lichen green and pale blue.
In the early fifties the G9 was exported to the US only for celebrity golfers such as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Ronald Reagan to swan about in, while the Ivy League Fraternity – who seemed in a terrible rush to look like their golf-loving dads – made it their own. But it wasn’t until 1958, when Elvis Presley teamed the item with brilliantine and attitude in the movie King Creole that it crossed over to Main Street and became a much-copied American staple. “Elvis always floated between Ivy League style and serious fashion,” attests shop owner and style monger John Simon – the man responsible for popularising the item in the UK via his trendsetting stores. “The Baracuta came in some great colours and how Elvis wore it was called the Jivey Ivy which was Ivy League with a twist. After that almost every clothing company in the US copied it.”
By 1960 the G9 had become hotter than a blacksmith’s poker due to a group of quite radical and predominantly bugged out jazz musicians (such as Miles Davis, Chet Baker and Milt Jackson) who chose the conservative Ivy League style and therefore the jacket to distance themselves from the carnival antics and gregarious fashions of the previous generation of jump and jive jazz entertainers. And as night follows day, the once conventional style became the epitome of hip on both sides of the Atlantic as jazz fans – known collectively as Modernists – aped their musical heroes and adopted the jacket.
“But the real explosion came when Steve McQueen wore it on the cover of Life Magazine in 1963,” continues Simon. “He was such a huge modernist and mod icon that anything he wore caught on.”
McQueen’s appearance in the jacket pre-empted a wave of classic Americana in the UK as many original Mods turned back to the less accessible Ivy League style that they had purloined from the US jazz guys in the early sixties and the Baracuta G9 was a vital component. “We were the first to stock the jacket as a style item in the UK in late 1966,” states Simon, who owned The Ivy Shop in Richmond – the countries most influential men’s boutique – the sixties equivalent of Westwood’s store Sex. “At the time Ryan O’Neal starred in the hit TV programme Peyton Place and his character wore the jacket and was called Rodney Harrington so I put one in the window of my shop, with a ticket saying, The Rodney Harrington Jacket, and then shortened it to The Harrington and the name stuck. The first people who bought it were really sharp dressers, real trend setters who wore beautiful mohair suits and, although the jacket was later adopted by skinheads, they were smarter than that.”
“The Harrington was part of a style that was so subversive because it was so Ivy League and so conservative compared with all the hippy fashions that were around at the time – flared jeans, cheese cloth shirts and long hair,” says Dexy’s Midnight Runners' Kevin Rowland. “The hair was a short back and sides – like an American astronaut's - the shoes were these thick soled Gibson’s and the Harrington was the jacket. I bought my first one in 1969 and another in 83 when we did our Don’t Stand Me Down album, and another just recently. The only problem with it was after the skinheads adopted as their own in the late seventies early eighties it took a while for it to shake off that thug connotation but now it’s back in it’s original context.”
"By 1960 the G9 had become hotter than a blacksmith’s poker due to a group of quite radical and predominantly bugged out jazz musicians..."
Indeed the Harrington, for a long time, was entirely off limits as skinheads the world over embraced the jackets many copies and teamed it with Doc Martens and skin tight Levi’s to create the’ bonehead’ caricature. But, even though skinheads are long gone the jacket still remains, a prominent feature of almost every British youth movement. “Paul Simonon wore one as a punk with the Clash while Chas Smash wore his in his band Madness,” says Paul Gorman author of, The Look – the universally acknowledged last word on street fashion. “A jazzer could wear it as well as a rude boy, rockabilly or a Mod and all the Brit Pop guys love it. Of late the Baracuta original has been picked up by a whole new generation of stylish thirty and forty some things that just want to look sharp.”
Today, the jacket in it’s original form is still available at John Simon of Covent Garden but in answer to the demands of legions of young skinny band members such as Razorlight, Lilly Allen and Plan B (aka Ben Drew) the company has come up with a new slimmer version that, although cut closer to the body, still boasts all of the jackets primary attributes.
“Such classic Americana slots in perfectly to the British likely lad look of today, as we have our own way of wearing it,” states Maxim fashion editor Tom Stubbs. “It’s such a great shape and you can put your hands in the pockets, and posture quite easily. It looks as good with jeans, chino’s or slacks and on everyone from 8 to 80 – it is an essential.”
“We stock it now because it has now lost its hard edge,” says Eddie Prendergast, the owner of The Duffer of St George, who now sells the full slim line range. “It used to be seen in mainly black and was worn by a lot of skinheads but now you can buy it in all these brighter softer colours and plaids and so it has a little of that tough connotation but more to do with the original American idea of the Ivy League and that is why it is so bang on the money.”
And now that high fashion is commonplace there has never been a better time to turn back to the classics and look as if you’re not trying too hard. “The Baracuta Harrington supersedes fashion,” says tailor Mark Powell who has designed clothing for Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry and rap star, Usher. “It is a purely stylish garment and even when the fashion fizzles out it will still remain. It is a true icon and probably the world’s most copied zip up jacket.”
The Harrington whether ‘Classic” or ‘Slim-line’ still retains all of the hallmark features of the original :
1. The jacket features the characteristic 100% cotton Fraser Tartan lining that, in an official ceremony at Beaufort Castle in 1938, The Fraser Clan chief - the 24th Lord Lovat gave Baracuta the official permission to use.
2. The five-pointed umbrella back allows rain to run off the shoulders and over the waistband, hopefully avoiding one’s trousers.
3. The much copied funnel collar, designed by John Miller, when fastened - Oasis style - ensures that not a drop of rain gets though to one’s neck.
4. For added mobility, when swinging that nine iron, the raglan sleeve features a line of stitching from neck to armpit and not the usual shoulder seam that constricts and encases the arm.
5. Slanted, peaked and button fastened side pockets allow a chap to slouch about, hands in pockets without too much effort.