Vulpine's Softshell Harrington Jacket is a supremely classy addition to any commuter's wardrobe. It's well made and beautifully fitted. Only a slight predisposition towards warmth rather than breathability stops it from being perfect for hard riding on dry days.
Ah, the old Harrington jacket. As worn by mods, James Dean, Steve MacQueen, and my grandad in the 1980s. In fact, because of that association with a fashion-challenged forebear I've always tried to steer clear of these waist-rubbing outer layers. But the Softshell Harrington from Vulpine is something a little different.
First of all, it's built for cycling. So instead of the traditional Harrington's elasticated waistband, this little beauty comes with a subtly dropped tail. Meanwhile, the original Harrington's rear yoke has been replaced with a stylistically-similar but far more athletically-practical subtle upper vent for breathability.
In fact, 'subtle' is the watchword for this jacket – everything is done so well. There are a couple of zipped hand pockets – one with an integrated carabiner for keys – plus a zipped chest pocket, all of which are also almost hidden away in the design of the jacket.
The soft-touch collar is closed with a couple of secreted magnets; there's a small rear pocket also with magnet closure; and the front storm guard hides the waterproof zip.
In terms of cut, the outer sections of the arms are extended to cover the back of the hands. And, in a nod to the original Baracuta G4 Harrington, there are even a couple of buttoned back adjusters with reflective lining. Strangely enough, the one part of the Vulpine Harrington you can't see is the most flamboyant: there's fun lime green piping inside.
Off the bike, the Harrington looks and feels superb. On the bike, this opinion only intensifies. The length in the back and the arms is perfect, offering just a little welcome extra protection to the lower back and hands. Meanwhile, the stretchy fabric is fantastically cosseting, allowing perfect movement in the saddle, yet also acting and feeling like a definite protective layer.
That's another thing about this jacket – it offers a really functional layer of warmth and very effective windproofing. I've been wearing it on days where ambient temperatures have been only a degree or two above freezing and – combined with a long-sleeve underlayer and jersey – heat retention has been faultless.
The one major downside is that it's not entirely weatherproof. Vulpine does have its famous Harrington Rain jacket, which is very similar but not quite identical and offers rain protection (Oli tested it back in 2015). With this softshell version, though, almost as soon as the heaven's open, you're going to get damp.
There's also a slight issue with breathability. While the Harrington has been great on cold days, when I've been riding harder and longer I have noticed the inside of the back gets a little moist. If we assume this is a commuter garment first and foremost, though, the effect of that should be mitigated slightly by shorter, less intense rides.
More problematic for all riders, the reflective piping on the back adjusters and inside the rear pocket are the sum total of visibility aids on board.
We've been lucky to get our hands on some excellent commuting jackets recently, so the Vulpine has stiff competition. There's the Howies Drizzler blazer, which curiously offers some of the same benefits as the Vulpine, albeit in a very different style and price range at £69. Then there's the Howies Herald, which mixes a little bit of style with really fulsome practical excellence for £139.
Compared to those two rivals and perhaps on paper, the Vulpine looks a little pricey. In use, though, it's in a different league to most rivals with an overall fit, style and attention to detail that is supremely impressive. In fact, I like the Harrington so much, I use it every day whether on the bike or not.
It might not be the last word in all-weather technical performance, but in terms of smart bike-friendly style, I'm not sure you could find anything better.
With excellent fit, comfort and build quality, this is one of the most stylish commuting jackets on the market
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Softshell Harrington Jacket
Size tested: XXL
Tell us what the jacket is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's a smart softshell jacket, aimed more at commuters than sports riders.
Vulpine says: "Enjoy the benefits of our tried and tested Harrington design in a whole new fabric. Meticulously tailored from supple, stretchy softshell, and laden with a wealth of cycling friendly features, the new Softshell Harrington is a versatile yet technical style, offering superb freedom of movement and impeccable moisture control."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Brushed fleece collar and cuff lining
Buttoned back adjusters
Back pocket with magnetic closure and reflective strip
Zipped chest pocket with side opening
Zipped hand pockets with carabiner in right pocket to secure keys
Magnetic closures on neck collar fastening
Waterproof front zip with storm guard
Back ventilation panel
Really beautifully made. Faultless.
Very good at keeping out wind and cold, not so good at breathability or rainproofing.
I've been wearing it every day and no problems (but I like it so much, I have been looking after it!).
To be fair, Vulpine doesn't claim any great waterproofing (although it does highlight the waterproof zip). It's not really useful for anything harder than a light drizzle.
Vulpine claims "impeccable moisture control". Hmm, I'm not so sure about that. The back of my test jacket gets a little damp with hard riding.
Really wonderful fit.
Perfect – as expected.
It feels substantial, not super-lightweight.
Excellent comfort both on and off the bike.
It's not a cheap option but you are buying quality. The Howies Drizzler blazer offers some of the same benefits as the Vulpine, albeit in a very different style, and costs £69. Then the Howies Herald mixes a little bit of style with really fulsome practical excellence for £139.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Cool machine wash on delicate cycle, no conditioner, then hang to dry. It coped fine.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
In cool, dry conditions this is a fantastic jacket.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Just the style, attention to detail and all-round build quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
It really gets soggy from rain quite quickly.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Howies Drizzler blazer is a different style of jacket but offers similar benefits and costs £69. The Howies Herald is a much more weatherproof jacket, with a little bit of commuter style, and costs £139.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It has a couple downsides, mainly rainproofing and breathability, and it's not cheap, but the Vulpine Harrington Softshell is a fabulous commuting jacket that will command regular use from style-conscious commuters. In terms of fit, comfort and build quality, I think it's second to none.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, leisure