The Harrington Jacket has been an emblem of youthful, pared-back cool since the 1930s. Meet the men who made it their own, from Elvis Presley to James Dean and its namesake, Peyton Place soap opera character Rodney Harrington.
At the height of his career in the 50s and 60s everything Elvis touched turned to gold. In King Creole, Presley played singer Danny Fisher, caught in the middle of two women and the criminal underbelly of New Orleans. Presley barely broke a sweat as a brooding heartthrob with a soulful voice to match. The role earned him critical acclaim, all the while sporting the iconic khaki Barracuta G9, lending it undeniable street credentials beyond its golfing origins.
1955, James Dean ‘Rebel Without a Cause’
James Dean’s role as the emotionally troubled Jim Stark in the era defining film Rebel Without a Cause provided disaffected youths in the 50s with a cultural icon. Jim Stark’s simple yet distinctive style, pairing a bold red Harrington with a simple white T-shirt and denim jeans, lends the jacket an air of youthful rebellion. The connection would lead it to be adopted by youth movements for years to come.
– Whilst the Barracuta was a popular jacket for the time, James Dean’s iconic red jacket was actually a nylon style developed by US brand McGregor custom made by the film’s costume designer, Moss Mabry who created three copies of the jacket. “Even though it looked simple, it wasn’t,” he said. “The pockets were in just the right place; the collar was just the right size.” The entire look became iconic.
– Contrary to Mabry’s recollection, director Nicholas Ray claimed he actually took it off a Red Cross worker.
1968, Steve McQueen
McQueen’s entire wardrobe is a near limitless source of inspiration. However his role as millionaire cum bank robber Thomas Crown has a cult status despite its luke-warm reviews. McQueen’s undeniable charisma and near faultless style elevates his role, and the pairing of Persol sunglasses with the classic Harrington Barracuta is one of the stand out costumes of the movie.
1964, Rodney Harrington and the Mod Revival.
While the 60s prime-time soap opera might be an unlikely source of inspiration, Peyton Place takes some credit for the name Harrington. By the 60s, the jacket was the mainstay of men’s wardrobes across the country, with it regularly being seen on the back of preppy Rodney Harrington. Harrington’s khaki Barracuta G9 entered the public consciousness in the UK, with legendary mod boutique owner John Simmons famously nicknaming the style after Harrington.
Both the name and style have had amazing longevity, having been adopted by Mods, Punks, and the Brit-pop scene across the 70s, 80s and 90s as part of their distinctive uniform. A modernised fit has been seen on the likes of 007 – who put his through its paces in Quantum of Solace, sporting a sleeker version of the style.
Here at Sunspel, we always believe in taking history and refining it. This season’s iteration of the Harrington follows a classic fit, sitting at the waist, yet we’ve pared down the original spec for a modern, refined shape. Cut from soft cotton twill, unlined and featuring a smart English stripe piping and internal pockets, our new Harrington has a clean and sophisticated look that will stand the test of time.