For a piece so practical and unassuming, the parka has spent an impressive amount of time at the very pinnacle of cool. Strictly speaking just a knee-length coat with a hood and padding, as a key item for SS17 it’s an unusual choice. But underestimate the parka at your peril – here’s all you need to know about this sound investment.
Words by Hollie MoatSHOP NOW
The word ‘parka’ comes from the Nenets language (native to remote northern Russian islands) and simply means ‘animal skin’. It first entered the English language in 1625, but you have to fast forward to the 20th century to get to the inception of the ‘fishtail parka’ – the definitive dark green design we recognise today. This was developed in the US for military use, keeping soldiers warm in -50°C weather. Made from a silk-nylon outer and a wool-blanket padding, it was soon rolled out for civilian use, becoming a winter hit.
Style significance came in the early-mid sixties, when it was adopted as the coat of choice by the fashion-obsessed mods, who rode their Vespas wearing a classic fishtail parka over their tailored suits and skinny ties, with the truly dedicated customising the back with a band logo or the signature mod emblem, the Air Force roundel. After a brief Quadrophenia-fuelled revival in 1979, the parka’s next starring role on the world stage came via nineties Britpop, with the biggest British bands sporting the piece over their Fred Perry polos and Adidas Gazelles. Parkas haven’t left the forefront of fashion since.
One of Cool Britannia’s most recognisable faces, it’s only fitting that the Oasis singer is the ultimate parka poster boy. Gallagher loved his parka – in fact, he still does. In the nineties he wore it everywhere, from stomping round Glastonbury to cheering on his beloved Manchester City. Gallagher has worn green parkas, he’s worn camouflage parkas, he’s worn a shiny, white fur-trimmed parka. The man launched his own clothing label prominently featuring – guess what? Yeah, a parka.
Style tip: Pair with jeans and sunglasses, for off-duty rock star swagger.
A classic green fishtail parka is a timeless wardrobe staple, but for serious style kudos this season you’ll need a more individual take on the piece, whether it’s via intricate floral embroidery or an arresting motif splashed across the back. High-octane camo is a good alternative.
Head to: Givenchy, DSquared2, Edward Crutchley, Mr and Mrs Italy.
Look, Listen, Learn
The Parka In Pop Culture
Watch: Quadrophenia – a love letter to mod style – and the 2010 adaptation of Brighton Rock, which transports Graham Greene’s classic novel to the era of mods vs rockers.
Listen: Before the movie came The Who’s seminal album, Quadrophenia. Also try the self-titled debut LP from mod band the Small Faces and Oasis’s Definitely Maybe.
Read: MOD: From Bebop to Britpop, Britain’s Biggest Youth Movement by Richard Weight – pretty much covers all your bases.