In parallel to the menswear staples with military origins such as the N-1, Commando sweater, and Breton shirt, there are several pieces with civilian backstories no less interesting or notable. One such piece is the famed Baracuta G9, also known more generally as the “Harrington” jacket (especially when produced by other marques).
Having been worn by many famed actors, musicians, and Ivy Leaguers since its introduction in 1937, the G9 is a venerable sartorial legend, seen everywhere from Hollywood film sets to concert stages to the streets of lower Manhattan. In heavy stylistic rotation for over 80 years, it has weathered trends, wars, and an ever-changing zeitgeist to the point that its presence on the menswear landscape is simply taken for granted.
But how did this rather simple, hip-length jacket come about? We're glad you asked…
Steve McQueen in a navy G9 jacket - (Image by Gentleman Gazette)
In the beginning — sometime after the creation of the universe, but before the development of nylon and other synthetic fabrics — there was Manchester, England. A center of cotton production located four hours north of London, it produced over 8 billion yards of cloth in 1912. Among said producers was a firm founded by brothers Isaac and John Miller, called Baracuta; in its early days, the company provided raincoats for the likes of Burberry and Aquascutum — two fellow British marques whose wares have attained cult status. (Marks & Spencer, a major British department store, was also a client.)
Expanding their purview from supplier to manufacturer of their own clothing items, Baracuta widened its lens in the 1930s. Climbing the social ladder as their firm took off, the Miller brothers joined a local Manchester golf club; it was there, in 1937, that they developed a weatherproof, hip-length jacket with a poplin shell, elasticized cuffs, and increased mobility compared to the stiffer, more formal sportswear that had previously been worn by gentlemen on the links. They called the jacket the “G9” — the "G" being for "golf,” the “9” representing a course’s nine holes.
In 1938, the Millers approached Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat and 24th Chieftain of Clan Fraser — whose family maintained exclusive use of Fraser tartan — for permission to add a tartan lining to the jacket. Given Lord Lovat's blessing, the G9 thus gained a classy (and distantly Scottish) aspect, made even more prestigious by Fraser's immaculate war record with the Commandos. It was arguably this small touch that helped the G9 — which is frequently worn semi-open, with its lining conspicuous — to ingrain itself in the minds of so many men the world over.
Elvis Presley wore a Baracuta G9 jacket in King Creole (1958). (Image by Gentleman Within)
Across the pond, an American company called McGregor had released a similar jacket in 1947, which it dubbed the 'Drizzler.' Worn by James Dean in 1956's Rebel Without a Cause, it would provide competition to the G9 when Isaac Miller began exporting Baracuta jackets to the U.S. market in 1950. However, the authentic G9 proved just as popular with American golfers as it had in its native England, with celebrities such as singer Bing Crosby and comedian Bob Hope all imbuing it with American cool. In 1958, Elivs Presley wore one during the filming of King Creole, while Steve McQueen wore another on the cover of Life Magazine in a July, 1963 issue, and threw on a blue version in 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair. Even Ol’ Blue Eyes himself wore a G9 — you can peep it in on the singer in 1966’s Assault on a Queen.
J. Simons of London coined the term "Harrington jacket" (Image via the Independent); Ryan O’Neal helped popularize the Baracuta G9 in Peyton Place, via Rods Mod Blog - (Image by Heddels)
Between 1964 and 1969, actor Ryan O’Neill wore a G9 jacket while playing the role of Rodney Harrington on American soap opera Peyton Place. Capitalizing on the garment’s new cross-Pond fame and catering to a clientele seeking Ivy League staples, menswear specialist John Simons of London promoted the G9 as the “Rodney Harrington Jacket.” This new name — later abbreviated to “Harrington jacket” — would be used by retailers to promote similar products to the G9.
James Dean in his red Drizzler in 1956's Rebel Without a Cause - (Image by Manchester Finest)
Somewhere between James Dean’s candy-apple red Drizzler in Rebel Without a Cause and other high-profile sartorial appearances in film and television throughout the 1960s, the G9 — once a staple of high-society menswear — became a counterculture icon. Adopted by English mods in the late ‘60s and 1970s, it bridged the divide between the preppy instincts of jazz icons such as Miles Davis and Art Farmer and the brash expressiveness of newer rock icons like Eric Clapton (who wore a G9 with The Yardbirds on Ready, Steady, Go!) and Pete Townsend. The Clash, Small Faces, and Razorlight adopted the G9 and its close cousin, the G4, cementing it in the musical-sartorial lexicon. Later, it would be adopted by ‘90s Birtpop frontmen such as Damon Albarn and Liam Gallagher — perhaps as a nod to their musical forebears.
A modern Harrington-style jacket as seen in Quantum of Solace - (Image by Iconic Alternatives)
As the decades wore on, the G9 never really faded from the zeitgeist. In the early 2000s and 2010s, it (and its derivatives) began appearing frequently in Hollywood blockbusters once again, worn by modern-day screen icons such as Daniel Craig, Tom Hardy, and Jason Statham. American film star Bradley Cooper has been spotted in a G9 on- and off-screen, while Armie Hammer likewise took up the Harrington mantle with a G9 in the remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Though the company was acquired by WP Lavori in Corso in 2012, Baracuta still produces its iconic G9 jacket more than 85 years after its debut. Costing roughly $470-$550 when ordered directly from the brand, it features the model’s famous Fraser tartan lining in Coolmax Cotton, a water-resistant treatment, and a two-way logoed zipper. (It’s also available in premium versions made of suede.) Meanwhile, fellow Britishers Ben Sherman make a Signature Harrington Jacket for under $200 with a cotton shell, gingham internal trim, and ribbed hems and cuffs. Bonobos’s Harrington Jacket is even more affordable than this — at roughly $100, it has a fully lined, quilted interior; button-through flap pockets, and a knit rib at the hem, cuff, and interior collar.
If you can swing it, we’d of course recommend the “real deal.” Well made, produced in numerous colors, and consistently available from various retailers on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s one of the most evergreen staples in a well-dressed man’s wardrobe.