The Baracuta G9 is woven into the very fabric of British youth culture. Famously favoured by the likes of Steve McQueen, the G9 is perhaps better known as the Harrington Jacket. It has been held in high regard by almost every British youth movement of the last 50 years which is testament to its simple versatility. Dating back to an industrialised pre-war Manchester, the Baracuta brand is steeped in history. From Hollywood to the Haçienda, the G9 has transcended social and cultural boundaries without compromise. In the true spirit of its history, the Baracuta G9 is back for Spring/Summer ‘13, ready for another generation of aesthetes to take it to their hearts.
- Mark Smith -
On average it rains almost every other day in Manchester. It is no surprise then, that a city synonymous with downpours became the raincoat manufacture capital of the world. It was through this rainwear that Baracuta was born, towards the end of the 19th century. Initially making outerwear for Burberry and Aquascutum, Baracuta eventually branched out with their own brand. Back then, Manchester was an industrious place, known for its textile production. The advent of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 led to a boom in industry and Baracuta flourished. In 1937 John and Isaac Miller began making the original G9 Baracuta at their Chorlton Street factory in Manchester. While they had made their name with rainwear, the G9 came to define the brand. It was the original incarnation of the Harrington jacket and it has continued to be made in Manchester, England. There’s a real provenance that runs through the jacket as a result. It’s a genuine example of that hard work ethic, combined to the innovation, which sparked the industrial revolution. The mindset of the city evolved into one of aspiration and upward mobility. The G9 came to embody that very spirit due to its link to Golf; a pastime that was exclusively the preserve of the wealthy at that time. The Miller brothers themselves aspired to be accomplished golfers, which perhaps influenced the design of the G9. Even when the brand became based in New York City in the 1950’s, it was the image of a damp Manchester they used to sell their rain wear The history of the city has taken many twists and turns since that original G9 left the Baracuta factory. From music to football, Manchester has its flag firmly pinned to the cultural map. It is humble in its origins yet quietly and confidently able to take on all comers, much like the G9.
Kenichi ‘Kenny’ Kusano is the former CreativeDirector of Japanese institution Beams Plus. He is the new designer of the Baracuta Blue Label Collection.
Kenichi ‘Kenny’ Kusano, former Creative Director of Japanese institution Beams Plus is the designer of the Baracuta Blue Label Collection. He explains his latest project in association with the English brand: “I approached this project by looking at the history of Baracuta and I realized it was a great British brand. I researched its history with the British army and began to understand that to obtain a Royal warrant the product must meet certain military standards. It is essential that it is high quality and functional. As a result, the emphasis for Baracuta is and always is and always has been function over fashion. In the project I have been involved with, the only updating of the original design is also a functional one. We used many fabrics that are traditionally used by the British army such as herringbone cotton and poplin, which is reminiscent of the original G9 fabric. We also added a lightweight nylon tartan liner and added a removable hood, plus a ‘pocket pen holder’, which was often seen on flight suits and military jackets. We respected the cultural heritage of the brand and this was a factor in the design process. Most important was the emphasis on its functionality and ease of wear. Baracuta is for every day use and should be fun to wear. Baracuta as a brand has a peerless connection with culture. From Hollywood to Carnaby Street, through to sport and rock music, and from British culture to Americana. Baracuta is the original.” Kenichi Kusano
- Mark Smith -
By 1950 Baracuta were exporting to USA. Preppy types from the Ivy League colleges picked up on the brand, favouring the G9 due to its adaptable nature, formal yet sporty, athlete meets aesthete. Then in 1954 Elvis wore a G9 in the film King Creole, taking the look to an even wider audience. The first New York City stockist opened and the platform for stateside popularity had been built. Famously, even Frank Sinatra wore a Baracuta G9. Back in the UK, John Simons’ seminal Ivy Shop in London is quite rightly credited for popularising the G9. It’s testament to both his eye and the timelessness of jacket that John continues to sell it in his shop today. The G9 became more widely known as the Harrington jacket when Ryan O’Neal wore a G9 in TV series Peyton Place, in 1964. His character went by the name of Rodney Harrington. While G9 is the original name, the word Harrington was popularised and has continued to this day, almost certainly due to John Simons. The G9 was made more famous by Steve McQueen in the 1968 movie The Thomas Crown Affair. Having appeared on the cover of Life magazine in a G9, Hollywood’s King of Cool became synonymous with the Baracuta Harrington. With the initial seeds of sartorial suave sown, the G9 gained favour in the burgeoning Mod scene. Peter Meaden was known as the Mod Father due to his prominence on that scene. He was once quoted as saying the subculture was about “clean living in difficult circumstances”. In other words, rising above ones station and using one-upmanship as a lever to improve social standing. The same mentality existed in a slightly different form in other subcultures, which led to more popularity for the G9 with ska and punk fans. This is where the everyman reputation of the G9 has its roots. Its utilitarian design lends itself to almost any aesthetic and those early scene setters knew that. Rarely will an item of clothing find favour with such disparate social groups with such varied views and tastes. Musicians have continued to pay patronage to the G9, most notably The Clash, who wore Baracuta jackets at their famous Times Square concert in 1981. Other contemporary leading lights to wear the Baracuta G9 have included David Beckham, Daniel Craig and Robert Downey Junior. The Baracuta brand may boast a rich heritage but it is not a heritage brand. It is, simply put, a brand with history.
Advocates of the Baracuta G9 point to its sheer versatility. It treads a fine line between formal and casual without ever being exclusively either. It was popular initially with golfers due to the ‘umbrella’ effect on the rear of the jacket. It is designed to conduct rain away from the wearer, doing so efficiently without compromising its appearance. There’s also an element of ventilation in the design which makes it ideal for sport. When Arnold Palmer wore a G9 to compete at St Andrews, it perfectly demonstrated how suited to golf it was. In Japan, the G9 was known as a ‘swing jacket’ due to its suitability to golf. The length of the sleeves, the elasticated cuffs and hem all contribute to the G9 not only looking good but also performing efficiently. A combination of full zip and collar buttons rounds off what many consider to be the perfect example of form following function. On the inside, the G9 is lined with the famous Fraser tartan. The history of this pattern dates as far back as the 18th century and has prevailed both civil and clan wars. In 1938, John Miller was given permission by the Fraser Clan chief, the 24th Lord Lovat to use the Fraser Tartan for the G9 lining. Reputedly a colourful character, Lord Lovat was heralded by Winston Churchill as “the most mild-mannered man that ever scuttled ships or cut a mans throat.”
The Baracuta G9 dates back to 1937, but the Fraser tartan which lines the jacket has Scottish-Gaelic origins reaching back to 13th century. The Fraser clan has strong associations with Inverness and the surrounding area, and has survived various wars of Scottish independence and clan feuds. The Fraser tartan is an enduring one which befits an enduring jacket like the Baracuta G9.
In the era when the Baracuta G9 was first conceived, the need for sportswear with a formal edge was prevalent. The Baracuta G9 was popular with golfers and is the perfect juxtaposition between formal and casual. The greatest example of this is the back yoke. Ergonomically designed to ensure rain is conducted away from the jacket and away from the person wearing it, the shape of the back yoke is inspired by that perennial rain repellent - the umbrella.
The Baracuta G9 boasts a full zip, up the neckline. But beyond that, the finishing touches are provided by a duo of buttons. While there’s a clear practical purpose to this, it’s a perfect example of form following function. The two buttons provide a large part of the signature look of the Baracuta G9.
Having gained unrivalled expertise in the manufacture of rainwear, Baracuta created the G9 for more casual, less rain-sodden occasions. The G9 was popular with the same people who favoured rainwear as a result. It would be worn by those who played golf as it was formal enough to look smart but functional too, due to the background of the manufacturers.
For the past two seasons, Baracuta has started communicating again, and its campaign concept, “SYNONYMUS & ANTONYMUS”, serves the purpose of explaining how versatile the iconic G9 is. Couples of wearers of different if not opposite cultural background, age and style show how the garment universally appeals to virtually everyone. Real people who adopt the G9 as their favourite style feature are brought together and strongly testify Baracuta’s legacy. FW13 was shot by famous photographer Joel Meyerowitz, who reinterpreted the concept which was first declined by creatives of British magazine’s Jocks&Nerds.