The Parka Jacket / From History to Fashionable Icon


As the weather gets ever parkier, there’s never been a better time to turn to the parka.

The History of the Parka

The word ‘parka’ comes from the Nenets language used by natives of the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea, and simply means ‘animal skin’ – so etymologically speaking, this minked-up chap was wearing a parka, but it was nothing like what you and I have in mind when we think of this iconic jacket.

Few pieces of clothing have undergone such a thorough transformation as the parka. Originally made from caribou or seal by the Canadian Inuits, this age-old outerwear staple began to evolve from its original fabrication with the development of the fishtail parka in 1950s America.

Facing severely cold Korean winters, the US Army invented the now renowned M-1947 (M48) and M-1951 (M51) fishtail parkas. Both crafted from wind-resistant olive drab-coloured cotton sateen (though the M-51 was also made from nylon), they featured a large front pouch pocket, an upper sleeve patch for a box of cigarettes and a long skirt (or fishtail) that you could sit on. Finally, a removable wool-pile liner (attached beneath) formed the hood.

As with so many menswear staples, the parka became a civilian hit just a number of years after it first appeared on the battlefield. From the 1960s onwards, it was synonymous with British mod culture – arguably because its fishtail kept your backside dry on a Vespa.

While the parka has never really fallen from favour since the mod era, its enduring appeal could be attributed to its function rather than its – up until recent years – lacklustre form. Nor has its relatively lowly status on the scale of stylish outerwear been helped by menswear’s switch of focus to refined, tailored pieces over the past few years. Bulky, shapeless and comparatively nondescript, the parka found itself in the furthest recesses of the stylish wardrobe, hidden behind overcoats, pea coats, trench coats and macs.

Now, though, spurred on by womens wear brands’ immensely successful appropriation of the parka, menswear designers are re-inventing the military staple, giving it an all-new, much smarter lease of life in the process.

Here at you will find your hybrid of winter utility and classic sartorial detailing is as smart and sophisticated as the parka gets.

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