I’m not sure where the origins of what we call the monkey jacket diverged from what we know as the Harrington Jacket. The Atom Retro website has a brief blurb about a military history, and there is some clear resemblance to short tanker style jackets which evolved during the Second World War as the top brass finally began to learn that ceremonial uniforms with metal buttons, braid and shoulder straps look fine on a parade ground but don’t work so well in a foxhole, a crowded cockpit or a tank turret. Hence the evolution of short military jackets such as battle dress, leather aviators, MA1s, Ike jackets, tank jackets etc.
Both Harrington jackets and monkey jackets may be considered ‘windcheaters’ (wind breakers in the USA – perhaps we British changed the nomenclature to avoid any potential conflation with flatulence!) There’s not much difference between the two, and the occasions for which they are appropriate are the same. The key detail which discriminates them is the collar style, Harringtons having a two button funnel neck and monkey jackets having their contrasting knitted hem and cuffs repeated at the collar.
When I was a kid my Dad wore something like a monkey jacket, although I never remember him referring to it as such. His was off white with navy knit hem, cuffs and neck. He may have played some golf in his youth but very seldom did so during the time we shared on this planet, but I think he referred to it as a golf jacket. His had a flapped pocket set to the rear of the side seams so that carrying golf balls in it wouldn’t get in the way of his swing.
As a little boy I had a navy blue one which I wore to school in warmer weather. On a trip to Canada in the eighties my Dad came back with two similar jackets, white with red and blue trim made by adidas, one for him and one for my older brother. Years later when I grew big enough to fit them I searched the house looking for a lucky inheritance, but they were gone.
I’ve seen versions in several colours by Relco, and I really like the white one made by Fred Perry but gave up on my search for one in my size at a decent price as they are hard to come by now. Recently I settled on this one by David Watts. It’s made from 100 percent twill chino cotton and the best thing about it is the slim fit. The two things to avoid with blouson jackets is them riding up in front to make the wearer look pregnant, or having too much material at the back which gathers up above the hem and makes the wearer look like a deflated beachball. Neither is flattering, but a slim fit combined with non-aggressive elastic hems allows the jacket to fall correctly at the sides of the trunk without riding up, and this one works well in that regard.
Combined with a polo shirt, levis and desert boots or gazelles, or sta pressts and bowling shoes, a comfortable and sporty casual outfit can be assembled appropriate for weekend activities. No matter how snooty the original faces may have been with regard to sports clothing finding its way into the Mod aesthetic, I tend to believe this snootiness stemmed more from their grudging acceptance of the inevitability that ‘their thing’ was no longer elite and exclusive. Casual sporty clothing was becoming mainstream, and wearing something like a monkey jacket made entrance into the mod clique possible to those with lower budgets and lower aspirations. Even the wealthiest dandy can’t be in bespoke suits all day every day. For off duty pursuits in temperate weather, especially if scooters are involved, monkey jackets are a great choice.
Sunglasses – Ray Ban
Jacket – David Watts
Polo shirt – Lacoste
Linen strides – Polo Ralph Lauren
Driving mocs – Polo Ralph Lauren