(Originally blogged October 23, 2010)
1955’s Rebel Without A Cause may be a quintessentially American film with an American icon in the lead role, but James Dean is actually wearing an English jacket!
In 1937 John and Isaac Miller, owners of the British Baracuta Clothing Company, designed a waist length jacket with raglan sleeves, front zipper closure and ‘Fraser’ tartan lining. The style was marketed as a Baracuta G9; it was well made and practical for casual occasions.
Although the jacket was an English design, it was American golfers who dubbed it a windbreaker and popularized the style in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley wore them, and in 1963 Steve McQueen was photographed wearing one on the cover of LIFE magazine.
In 1965, the American soap Peyton Place was first broadcast in the UK. Ryan O’Neal’s character ’Rodney Harrington’ popularized the zip-front jacket style with British Mods, who thought all things American were cool (not realizing that the jacket was English!)
By 1966 the jacket, was now known as a Harrington in the UK, and was a staple of British Mod fashion along with Desert boots and button down shirts. As Mod came to an end in the late 1960s, the Harrington was adopted by the early Skinhead movement who wore them in combination with Levi 501s, Doc Martens and gingham checked shirts. The original Baracuta G9/Harrington is still available – in black, navy, brown, tan, and red.
(Note: I received some really useful insights and histories from readers but unfortunately, the comments for this post were lost. The jacket James Dean is wearing is apparently not a Harrington but nobody seems to know exactly what it is.)