Menswear has always been heavily influenced by military fashion, from shirts (CPO shirts) to pants (cargo pants and chinos) and, yes, you guessed it, even jackets. These days, military-style jackets are a common sight on the high street and the runway.
When the colder months arrive, a warm coat is a must-have piece of clothing, and for many military parka is a first choice. Practical and trendy, it’s available in a range of styles and materials to suit different tastes and budgets. But what exactly is a parka, where did it come from, and why are parka-style coats so sought after, not only in the winter? To learn more, keep reading!
The parka, with a long body, deep hood, and adjustable drawstring waist, was initially created by the Caribou Inuit people to keep warm in the Canadian north. Made from seal or caribou skin, it was even frequently treated with fish oil for waterproofing. Tribes of Siberia wore similar jackets. It’s their Nenets language where the word “parka”, meaning “animal skin”, is thought to come from.
The modern military parka was developed during World War II and issued by the US military to soldiers as part of their cold weather gear. Although, due to scarcity during the war, the original fur lining on hoods was eventually replaced with a pile. Pilots and troops liked this military jacket because of its functional, roomy pockets for storing food or ammo and oversized fit, which allowed them to wear it over thick uniforms. During the Korean War in 1951, the fishtail parka was developed. It had a drawstring at the characteristically shaped hem, allowing it to tie around the legs to keep the heat in.
Over time, the surplus military parka became popular outside military circles, with 1960s mods adopting the style and decorating their parkas with patches and emblems. Because of its loose fit, it could also be readily styled over a clean suit to keep it shielded from road grime when riding motor scooters. It’s partly thanks to them that the military parka evolved over the years into a highly fashionable item, massively popular in men’s fashion today.
Even if some tribes north of the Arctic Circle still follow tradition, it is not surprising that most contemporary parkas are no longer entirely made of fur and leather. Instead, their shell is made of materials such as cotton, nylon or polyester, which are just as resistant to water and wind, while the lining is from fleece, down, or synthetic fibres and can be removed in warmer weather.
Nowadays, oftentimes fabrics lighter and more breathable than conventional textiles are used. To perform better in various weather conditions, parkas may also include additional characteristics like windproof and waterproof coatings and membranes, as well as extra insulation or insulation ventilation.
Some modern military parkas are constructed from sustainable materials, such as recycled polyester, organic cotton, or plant-based materials. Brands like Canada Goose and SuperDry create parkas intended to be more environmentally friendly and produced using ethical manufacturing practices.
There are also other elemental characteristics that identify this type of jacket. The military parka has a hood with fur or pile designed to provide additional protection from the elements. It can be adjusted with a drawstring for a secure fit around the wearer’s face. The full zipper or button closure fastens all the way to the top to shield the neck from the cold. The buttons are often covered with a flap to keep out wind and rain.
The military parka has a number of pockets, including large hand pockets and breast pockets, which can be useful for carrying multiple items, and adjustable cuffs and waistband, allowing the wearer to customize the fit for comfort and further protection.
The military parka has been embraced by the fashion industry, with designers such as Calvin Klein, Burberry and Michael Kors creating updated versions of the jacket in a variety of materials and styles. These parkas may have a more fashion-forward aesthetic, with features such as colorful linings, metallic hardware, and designer branding.
There are also many male celebrities who wear military parkas, including Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and A$AP Rocky. They go for both designer pieces and those you could easily find in your local military surplus store. As with the mods in the 1960′, it’s them who popularize the military parka these days, proving that a man can wear a wide variety of clothing items with an army parka, depending on the occasion and the desired look.
The possibilities are almost endless. Military parka looks equally good with jeans and a T-shirt, creating a simple and classic look, as it is with a dress shirt and slacks for a more formal occasion, or a suit, where it adds extra warmth. You can dress your parka up with a sweater and a pair of chinos or dress it down when paired with athletic wear, such as sweatpants and a hoodie.
The traditional military parka is one of the most well-known, almost iconic items of men’s apparel, along with other army jackets like the M-65 jacket or bomber jacket. Its development over time has been influenced by societal changes, cultural shifts, and even technological advancements. It’s incredible how such a commonplace item can have such a fascinating history, spanning decades through haute couture and contemporary street style and still retains its appeal.