Serving an overwhelmingly practical purpose, there are few pieces more winter-ready than the classic parka – a point typified by the Caribou Inuit originally inventing the garment to deal with Arctic temperatures and its prevalence in this season’s polar explorer trend.
With strong associations with both the mods and military, this silhouette has seen its popularity soar over recent years, staking a serious claim as a go-to outerwear option. GQ‘s Matthew Sebra even went as far as to label it “the most versatile piece of outerwear you should own” – and we would be inclined to agree.
The Parka: AW13
With a strong presence across the AW13 high fashion collections and particularly at the likes of Topman Design, Paul Smith and Louis Vuitton, the parka isn’t just ranking high on practicality this year.
The latter took the lead in presenting the parka as a versatile, stylish piece of outerwear. Kim Jones used his adventures in the Himalayas as his inspiration for the collection and paired hard-wearing pieces like hiking boots, woollen head wear and, of course, parkas with sharp tailoring and pinstripes for a successful juxtaposition of styles:
British powerhouse Paul Smith offered a more eclectic take on the mod classic. Whilst tailoring had a role to play, it wasn’t in a traditional guise. Bold prints and patterns were prevalent across the collection and the parka was by no means excluded from this design process.
The show also demonstrated how a heavier parka style could potentially offset a classic slim-line look and act as a statement piece without necessarily making use of ostentatious elements:
Another bastion of British style, Topman made a strong case for the parka and featured it heavily across their seasonal offering. The collection centred largely on tonal outfitting with shades ranging from bright whites to stand-out oranges and autumnal reds.
The parka was certainly given a colourful spin by the high street giants, proving that khaki and green aren’t the only options available when wrapping up against the winter weather:
The Parka: Ways to Wear
Its origins may lie in survival and the exploration of the world’s harshest climates but the parka has played an important role in fashion and style history too. Its varied connotations and associations with the Inuit, military and mods, amongst others, lend the parka a versatility that enables it to transcend formality and looks.
The importance of the parka within mod culture helped to cement its timeless label. Showcasing an entirely new approach to styling the piece, they collectively demonstrated the ease with which it worked to contrast sharp tailoring and smarter attire, without appearing out of place. Looking to the mods for inspiration when dressing the parka up is always a fail-safe approach.
On the opposite side of the style spectrum, it’s the hikers and voyagers that are leading the way in fashion terms this season. The parka is a crucial element within the aforementioned polar explorer trend or any true outdoors-inspired aesthetic, pairing effortlessly with other durable, heavyweight materials such as corduroy, denim, tweed and flannel.
Both of the looks described above are vastly different – the sharpness of the suit in comparison to the sturdiness of the explorer look – which demonstrates just how versatile the parka actually is.
Alongside some hard-wearing trousers and a pair of winter ready boots is a natural home for a parka.
Throw some chunky knitwear into the mix and you’ve created a stylish look that is ready to tackle Everest, never mind the British high street on a late December evening:
- Gant Rugger Jacquard Stripe Roll Neck Sweater 166588
- United Colors Of Benetton Heavy Parka Jacket
- Indigo & Maine Jimmy Slim Distressed Jeans
- Car Shoe Leather Hiking Boots
Of course, the parka isn’t confined to outdoors-inspired aesthetics – it will work within many a casual ensemble. For instance, try incorporating yours in a trend-led look that features some cuffed trousers and a statement-making shirt.
Consider opting for a parka in a hue other than traditional khaki or green. For instance, burgundy is just as versatile, brings natural warmth to any look and is a key colour trend for AW13:
- Reiss 1971 Gizmo Large Dogtooth Print Shirt Blue
- Burton Burgundy Parka Coat
- Topman Charcoal Wool Chino Joggers
- Allsaints Hilt Brogue
Casual Lookbook Inspiration
You don’t have to be a mod to wear your parka over a suit, yet no-one does this clashing of formal and casual better. Give a nod to this side of the parka’s heritage by layering a long sleeve polo knit underneath.
Pair with some burgundy tinted wool trousers and brown Derby shoes for a smart-casual look that is perfect for hopping between bars on a Christmas night out:
- Paul Smith London Merino Knitted Polo Top 168092
- Woolrich Arctic Parka Coyote-trimmed Down-filled Coat
- Reiss Dove Multi-check Wool Trousers Berry
- Selected Homme Derby Shoes
If you’re keen to pair your parka with more formal attire, opt for a slim-cut version in a timeless colour way. Then simply layer it over your suit to protect your tailoring from the elements during the morning and evening commute.
Style up the look with a collar bar shirt and spotted silk tie; the rich burgundy colour complements the khaki green outerwear perfectly.
Finish this sharp ensemble off with a pair of brogues or similarly smart leather shoes in classic brown or black:
- Reiss Buster Shirt With Bar Blue
- Topman Premium Grey Herringbone Suit
- Yves Salomon Fur Lined Cotton Parka 168226
- Burberry London Spotted Woven-silk Tie
Smart Lookbook Inspiration
Current Season Parkas
- Uniqlo Men Warm Lite Coat+
- Allsaints Montrose Parka Jacket
- American Apparel Winter Jacket
- Burton Khaki Borg Lined Parka Coat
- He By Mango Herringbone Quilted Premium Parka
- Topman Black Wool Mix Parka Coat
- Allsaints Kray Parka Jacket
- Schott Parka With Faux Fur Hood
- Reiss Bauhaus Down Jacket Black
- Shore Leave Misoa Parka In Olive
- Cheap Monday Bart Parka
- River Island Black Faux Fur Trim Borg-lined Parka
- He By Mango Faux Fur Trim Feather Down Parka
- Gant Rugger Shearling Lined Cotton Parka 166521
- Woolrich Byrd Cloth Arctic Parka Coyote-trimmed Coat
Without a doubt, the parka is a pioneering piece, both physically and culturally. It paved the way for explorers and the military to work in the most challenging of climates, whilst it remains a beacon of style due to its ties to mod heritage.
So even though you may not be traversing the Arctic or riding a Vespa around Brighton this season, the parka makes a versatile addition to any modern winter wardrobe.
But now we want to hear your view:
- Do you own a parka?
- Or will you be looking to add one to your wardrobe season?
- If so, what style will you be going for?
- Will it make an appearance during your morning commute?
Let us know in the comments section below…