Parka

AKA: anorak, cagoule, kagool

How to say it: as it looks

Traditional Features: 

body template

  • hood, often with fur lining
  • drawstring at waist and often the hem
  • cinchable cuffs
  • waterproof
  • loose fitting
  • zipped, centre front closure
  • can be anywhere from hip to 3/4 length
  • can be insulated with down or other warm filling
  • often has the iconic ‘fishtail’ back
  • often has several large pockets

Origins…

…of the style: Technically, the anorak and the parka are separate garments. They were both invented by inuit tribes in cold countries and were originally made from animal skins, however where the anorak was a waterproof, pull over style with a hood and drawstrings at the waist and cuffs, the parka was a 3/4 length cold weather jacket, with a centre front closure, fur lined hood and if often stuff with down for extra warmth. Over the years the fashion industry has blurred the lines between the two garments and the terms are now used interchangeably. So for the sake of this entry I will (rightly or wrongly) treat them as one garment as well.

The parka, as we know it,made the leap to western culture when it was manufactured for US Troops to help them survive the freezing cold temperatures during the Korean War. It was made from heavy cotton, with an alpaca or mohair liner and had a hood that was initially lined with fur, but was later unlined due to manufacturing costs. This coat, called the M51 parka also had the fishtail hem, which was longer at the back and had strings attached so the hem could be tied around the legs of the wearer to trap more body heat. In 1959 the parka (made from poplin) appeared in Vogue magazine and in the 1960s became an integral part of the Mod subculture.

It is thought the Mods adopted the parka because they were a great way to protect their expensive suits from the British weather and as they were readily available in Army Surplus stores, they were quite cheap to buy.

While the Mod era was definitely the heyday of the Parka, they are undoubtably a great jacket for cold weather climates and this has made them a staple in the fashion marketplace. As is the common story with fashion garments, designers have taken liberties with producing their own interpretation of the parka, but the overall look and attitude given off by a parka has survived.

FYI: A cagoule is a British name for a lightweight parka that does have the pull-over front and usually doesn’t have lining.

…of the name: The word parka is derived from the Nenets language (a language spoken in Northern Russia) and in the Aleutian Islands means ‘animal skin’.

The work anorak comes from the Kalaallisut (the language of Greenlandic inuits) word anoraq, which apparently refers to a beaded garment worn by Greenland women and brides in the 1930s.

Cagoule is the french word for ‘hood’.

For more in depth histories of the Parka check out Wikipedia, Reddit,  and Hard & Smart 

Random Facts: 

  • In the 1980s the word Anorak became a derogatory term used to describe people with obsessive interests in niche subjects. Originally used by the Observer Newspaper in 1984 to describe trainspotters, due to the (then unfashionable) anoraks/parkas they wore to protect themselves from the elements while they took their notes at train stations and overpasses. The term is now used to describe anyone with such obsessive interests.

21st Century Parkas

Parkas now come in a variety of weights, colours and lengths, and the fur hood lining is not always present, but whatever it looks like, there is always something about a parka that lets you know what it is.

hm-parka-2013-winter-fashion DKNY asosburberry parka

Top row – H&M, DKNY

Bottom row –  Asos, Burberry

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