28th November 2017
The parka and its utilitarian qualities herald as far back as the Caribou Inuits- where seal skin or caribou was used to make what we know as a parka today. Durable, waterproof and sometimes covered in fish oil — more often than not Inuit families would line their hoods with fur to cope with the harsh conditions the arctic would throw at them.
Because of its phenomenal abilities to protect against the cruellest of weather conditions it wasn’t long before the military jumped into the parka’s welcoming arms. Named the ‘snorkel parka’ for its snorkel like way in which it could zip up leaving only a small hole for breathing– the ¾ length coat used by the airforce was typically made from a blanket like material inside with a sage green nylon on the outside. The ‘fishtail parka’ was then invented and used by the US Army during the Korean War—it was this style that the sub-culture of Mods would later adapt in the late 60s. Not until the parka became commercially appealing did its colour palette change. You name it they did it; pale blue, green, even orange featured in the parkas colour chart.
Skinheads were also early adopters of the parka-look. Citing their durability and cheap availability from Army Surplus shops as reasons for their rising popularity. And while Skinheads took their inspiration vaguely from the Mod culture, as would Mancunian post-punk band Joy Division. And as luck would have it (that or location) fellow Mancunian band Oasis would later re-introduce the world to the infamous Parka in their own right.
It was the age of Britpop, Blur vs Oasis—All Saints donning cargo pants and oversized parkas on stage, and while we may have waved goodbye the cargo pants, the parka is very much still a part of our clothes culture. This season sees the parka return in the form of McQ’s latest menswear drop. It may have started as practical and transcended through one of England’s most famous music movements onto the backs of Britpop’s rebellious bands but it is now seen as wardrobe staple.