A garment more often associated with Eskimo’s and explorers – or at least those not educated in elegant outerwear – the parka has gone through something of a resurgence these last couple of months. Since hitting the catwalk in September, many high street brands have designed their own parkas in an attempt to fuel the revival of one of the most utilitarian garments.
Whilst women saw something of a return of the parka to high-end fashion last year, in an attempt to keep up with their furiously fashion-forward efforts, more playful designers offered an alternative jacket to the stripped down, minimalist pieces that are prevalent right now. In this article, I am going to try and describe why the parka has a place in your wardrobe, and showcase some original outfit ideas.
I know there is some confusion as to what exactly a parka is. The simplest rule is that if there is no fur – synthetic or otherwise – it is not a parka true to its origin. Just like the trench coat, the parka derives from a military background. The idea of a practical jacket that had a surplus of pockets and an insulating nature stemmed from American soldiers freezing in cold, rural Korea in 1951. At the time it was known as the M1951 parka, where elements of the jacket – such as the ability to detach all parts and components – separated it from any other standard issue military or civilian jacket alternatives.
Soldiers actually referred to the jacket as the ‘fishtail jacket,’ as the extra material below the backside was used to wrap around the legs for extra warmth, much like a fish’s tail funnily enough. The hood was one of the components that could be removed, and was usually lined with faux fur. Of course these days, premium labels can actually use natural fur.
The intention of the jacket was to keep warm, so the aesthetic of the jacket was considerably less important than the functional aspect of it. Both then and sixty years ago, the inside was made of an insulating material – sometimes lined with fur – and included yet more detachable pockets. The outer surface of the parka is also usually waterproof. Ultimately, the jacket seems to cover every feasible instance that could be of detriment to the user, clearly making it perfect for outdoor use anywhere. So why is such a piece of clothing on a fashion website?
The parka jacket was seen in various forms throughout many autumn/winter preview high fashion collections. Below you can see parka jackets from major fashion houses such as D&G, Balmain, Gant, J Crew and Junya Watanabe – quite a backing I am sure you will agree.
A decade after the Korean War, the parka jacket was used for more sartorial purposes right here in Britain. It was given a lease of life as a mainstay in all Mod’s wardrobes; a statement piece in its own right, if only as an obvious symbol of Mod culture.
Right now, it is making waves for very similar reasons. Moving away from the vogue, yet timeless collections heading the catwalk at the moment, the parka represents something less-refined, and more conventionally masculine. The following outfit ideas will hopefully prove the parka’s worth – acting as a sartorial edge to your winter wardrobe.
The parka was originally a jacket in a khaki shade, helping American soldiers stay hidden amongst the dense shrubbery. This parka reflects the sense of identity and history that the parka is renowned for, whilst also being the perfect statement piece alongside the contrasting burgundy cords.
An autumn/winter staple colour shawl knit is right on vogue, and a further texture is incorporated through the use of lined boots – making this look interesting but not over indulgent.
As quilted jackets seem to be everywhere at the moment (at least in the south-east), investing in a quilted parka seems the perfect opportunity to respect the heritage pattern, as well as producing a fresh take on a 60s classic.
A heritage like jacket requires some equally respectable selvedge jeans. It is important that these are a slim and straight fit; nothing too skinny and certainly no rips or intentional discolouring. The top and bottom half can often be mixed up, with one balancing the other, and coupled with a shorter and more versatile length, you can afford to experiment in both texture and colour.
In this outfit the point of interest derives from the pop of colour in this seasons must have colour – orange. The cool slouchy beanie expresses an off duty approach; but if you were to replace this with a tweed flat cap and a shirt and tie instead of polo, you have instantly transformed the combination into a look more suited to the office.
Taking inspiration from J Crew’s recent autumn/winter photo shoot [catwalk look book top right], there is no reason why a lean and fitted parka can’t be worn underneath a jacket. Indeed, these product picks are less ostentatious than you might hope for, but of course these are merely ideas to help you form your own style of outfit.
It must be remembered that it is difficult to find a cheap parka, as the whole purpose of the jacket requires good quality fabrics – but this is one of the cheapest parka jackets I could find. In addition to the practical pockets and extra layer of warmth, the hood is a more juvenile replacement for any other type of headwear, and conflicts very well against the gentlemanly corduroy hunting jacket. Combined with the alluring burgundy chinos, that only leaves a pair of wonderfully hand crafted brogues to complete the look.
As previously mentioned, a true parka jacket will feature a faux fur lined hood. However, with designers continually producing fresh and modern takes on classic pieces, there is now a range of parka jackets suitable for every individual style and taste. Whether you like full length, cropped, padded, slim fitting or traditional, you are sure to find a parka jacket suitable for your current wardrobe:
So there you have it. Hopefully you will now understand why the parka jacket is on this website, and even add it to your Christmas list as you continue a never-ending effort to stand out as a well dressed male.
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