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BARACUTA G9: THE HISTORY OF THE HARRINGTON

Posted on March 27 2016

The Baracuta G9 jacket has been worn by everyone, from rock legends and movie icons to sports-stars and street-gangs to James Bond and Superman. It is an original British classic that has been much copied but never bettered, and a garment that all men should have in their wardrobes at some point in their life.

Most people are surprised when they learn the history of the Baracuta G9

The history of the Baracuta brand originates in Manchester, an industrial heartland in the northwest of England. The city was once known as “Cottonopolis”, being the centre of the World’s cotton textile production in the 19th century, peaking in 1912 when 8 billion yards of cloth was produced. It is also often referred to as “Rainy City”, due to the regularly high levels of precipitation and the damp atmosphere (which was especially good for cotton spinning). 

The Regent Cotton Mill in Failsworth, Manchester (c1936)

Given the industrial background of the city and its climatic conditions, it is understandable that a number of cotton-rainwear manufacturers began operating in the area. One of them was a company called Baracuta, owned by brothers John and Isaac Miller. Their principal activity was the production of raincoats for brands such as Burberry and Aquascutum.

 

Early advertisement for Baracuta rainwear

In the 1930s the Miller brothers began to develop the Baracuta name as an independent brand, and they created a number of unique designs, each with an alphanumeric codename. At the time, the success of their manufacturing business had afforded them the opportunity of joining Manchester’s social elite by becoming members of the local golf club, and in 1937 they developed a short, waterproof zipper-jacket that could be worn on the course. The design offered sufficient freedom of movement to allow players to strike the ball without restriction; it eventually became know as the “swing jacket” in Japan, but the company referred to it by the designated codename, G9 (the G indicating “Golf”).

The G9 had more freedom of movement than traditional golfing apparel of the time

The following year, John Miller approached Lord Lovat, the 24th Chieftain of Clan Fraser, seeking his permission to use the Fraser tartan for the lining of the jacket. Not only was the design of the tartan a perfect compliment to the G9, it also provided a suitably noble touch. As war broke out, Lovat’s heroism in battle (Winston Churchill described him as “the handsomest man to cut a throat") could only enhance the hard-edged masculine appeal of the design. 

Lord Lovat, Chief of the Clan Fraser, at his wedding in 1938

In 1950, Isaac Miller began exporting to the United States, and the G9 was adopted by the celebrity golfing fraternity, which included such luminaries as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Ronald Reagan. 

Early US advertisement for the Baracuta "golf jacket"

Baracuta wasn’t without competition: a US company, McGregor, had introduced a very similar garment in 1947, called the “Drizzler”. James Dean famously wore a red version in the 1956 classic, “Rebel Without a Cause”.

James Dean leads the rebellion away from the golf course.

Dean’s appearance in the film broadened the appeal of the waist-length waterproof beyond the boundaries of the golf-set, which in turn created an opportunity for Baracuta. A defining moment for the brand arrived when Elvis Presley was seen wearing the G9 in the 1958 movie, “King Creole”, instantly transforming the garment from an item of sports apparel into a must-have fashion piece.

The Baracuta G9: a jacket fit for a King

Proving that the G9 was not subject to the vagaries of the fashion world, its legendary status was cemented when Steve McQueen was pictured in a “Stone” Baracuta on the front page of Life Magazine on July 12, 1963. Clearly a favourite piece in his wardrobe, McQueen was photographed wearing it as often as he was in his Playboy chukka boots.

 

Steve McQueen "out riding" in his Stone Baracuta

Significantly, the G9 made an important television appearance when it was worn by Ryan O’Neill in the 60s soap opera, Peyton Place, playing the part of Rodney Harrington. In 1966, British "Ivy League" menswear specialist and Baracuta retailer, John Simons, promoted the G9 as a “Rodney Harrington Jacket”, later abbreviated to “Harrington”, and the generic term for the style was born.

 

John Simons coined the term "Harrington Jacket"

The Baracuta “Harrington” jacket continued to be worn by famous celebrities in the United States, including golfing legend Arnold Palmer, Hollywood superstar Gregory Peck and Old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, who brought the G9 back to the big screen in Assault on a Queen (1966).

 

"Old Blue Eyes" in Stone Baracuta

Baracuta’s finest moment arguably arrived a couple of years later, when G9 lover Steve McQueen appeared in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) wearing a navy blue version of the model. It is worn during the famous scene in which he flies a glider at the glider airport in Salem NH, quietly contemplating his feelings as he prepares his mind for the upcoming bank robbery. The accompanying music, “The Windmills of Your Mind” by French composer Michel Legrand, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1968. It is an unforgettable scene in what remains one of the most stylish movies ever made.  

 

Steve McQueen: gliding in style in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

In addition to being sported by celebrities in the Hollywood hills, the Baracuta G9 also hit the streets of Britain as it was appropriated by a succession of youth subcultures. First the mods and skinheads of the 1960s followed by punks in the 1970s... the Clash famously wearing personalised Baracutas in New York's Times Square in 1981 during their 7-night stand at Bond’s nightclub (how appropriate).

 

No Culture Clash: the G9 has crossed all boundaries of society

The list of musicians who’ve performed in a G9 has continued to grow since Elvis first appeared wearing his in 1958. It includes jazz legends Miles Davis and Chet Baker, rock and blues god Eric Clapton, Damon Albarn and Liam Gallagher (the rival frontmen of 1990s Britpop bands Blur and Oasis), and the Modfather himself, Paul Weller, who proclaimed, “The Harrington is one of the most iconic jackets ever designed. It played such a huge part in my youth and is something I still wear today. It’s the perfect jacket - a real classic - it will never go out of style.”

Early photographs of Eric Clapton and Paul Weller (The Modfather) accompanied by G9s

The G9 has also remained popular with movie stars. The “Sand” Baracuta has been seen on the backs of tough-guy actors Jason Statham and Tom Hardy together with James Bond star Daniel Craig and Superman hero Christopher Reeve.

Gritty performers: Statham, Hardy, Craig and Reeves in Sand Baracutas 

Jason Statham (like McQueen) has not limited his wardrobe to just one shade of Baracuta; he has also been seen wearing navy blue - a colour favoured by some of his contemporaries, Damien Lewis, Bradley Cooper and Arnie Hammer.

Statham, Lewis, Cooper and Hammer in navy blue Baracutas

In the style stakes you cannot beat originality, so no matter what colour you prefer, if you are considering the purchase of a Harrington jacket, make sure it’s a Baracuta G9.

Zip yourself into a Baracuta G9 and stay cool

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