Fashion and nature are intrinsically connected.
The Autumn colours influence our choice of tones. Spring leads us to layer with lighter fabrics and Summer gives us a warm nudge towards lighter garments that breathe. The one season that brings us all together though is Winter. No matter your style or fashion choice, when the cold air bites we all have one thing in common across the globe - our penchant for parka coats.
We explore the evolution of a traditional classic from its ancient roots in Canada through to its increasing popularity as a luxury addition to any closet.
So, what is a parka coat exactly?
There are many winter coat designs that take inspiration from a parka coat, but there are some key differences that set them apart from any other winter coat. The Collins dictionary definition of a parka coat is:
“A hip-length pullover fur garment with a hood, worn in arctic regions or a hooded jacket with fleece or pile lining.”
The main quality of a good parka coat is warmth. This is why they are generally longer fitting with an inner down (pile lining) to trap in more heat. The materials are also both of higher quality and durability to a standard coat or jacket. All reasons why many people view a parka coat as the go-to design for the winter months.
Parka coat history: a traditional classic
The origins of the parka began in the 1940s with the Inuit people, inhabitants of the Canadian Arctic. A functional design created to protect them in freezing conditions. The long length and fur lined hood made them a great insulator. They were also originally made using seal skins that was regularly treated with fish oil for water resistance.
The original parka coat was most commonly worn by women, which is why they included a baby pouch pocket. A feature you can still see in many of the contemporary designs today. They only gained popularity and became more widely considered as mens outerwear in the 1940s when US military were assigned fur lined parka coats in sage green during WWII.
The design retained many of the original qualities but included the addition of cargo pockets sewn into the inner of the coat for ammunition, food and medical supplies. They also added a zip that shut right up to the fur lined hood for additional protection. The parka coat design was further developed during the Korean War to adapt for conditions, including the fishtail parka. Adding a shaped back of the coat which provided further protection and warmth.
Making its debut in western culture and British subculture
Parka coats continued to be issued to the military throughout the 1950s and gained popularity in western culture. By the 1960s they had become synonymous with British subculture ‘the mods’ who needed protection from the elements and warmth while riding their scooters. As iconic photos of mods on scooters emerged during the bank holiday riots of the 60s, and featured on The Who’s Quadrophenia album cover (and film of the same name) - parka coats became part of the Britpop movement. Cementing their place in pop culture history and bringing the design into the realms of fashion.
When a parka coat became a fashion choice
By 2014 the parka coat became a seasonal fashion essential available in the high street with the earliest reported parka to hit the catwalks that same year. However, like anything that hits the mass market, many of the original ‘functional’ qualities of the parka coat were lost along the way as variations to the design began to emerge. To the point many began to regard any winter coat with a hood and fur trim as a ‘parka’. The good news is that by 2017 there was a resurgence of designers using the traditional silhouette of the parka with plenty of layers for additional warmth.
The rise of luxury parka coats
Due to its practical routes the parka coat took some time to truly find its place in the world of luxury fashion. Liam Gallagher didn’t help, but it’s not all his fault. However, as fashion houses began to embrace oversized silhouettes and urban became chic, the faithful parka finally made it into the spotlight.
The continued rise of luxury parka coats in recent years has coincided with an increased demand for high end casual footwear and designer trainers. The practical benefit is also a plus for Ski season lovers who want to remain high fashion while they’re on the slopes. Now you can find tailored parkas made from cashmere blends and top quality materials. However there are still blurred lines on the true definition of a parka with many designers still putting fashion over function. This leaves many with the choice to either be warm or on trend.
The 49Winters twist: finest quality fabrics with unique 3-part design
A significant part of our own parka coat design research was to understand how the world is changing and to take a practical approach to remain in harmony with the boom of technical innovation and the need to carry electronic devices. Brand visionary at 49Winters, Andrew Lever explains:
“Over the years, we watched other luxury outerwear labels competing with one another, with strong marketing campaigns claiming to offer the ultimate “expedition” coat to wear in sub-zero temperatures. With global warming and unpredictable weather conditions, we wanted to deliver an ultimate product that paid less attention to the badge and more attention to its purpose.”
As a result we are able to offer a more intelligent parka coat that is beautifully made. A stylish product that has more longevity and adaptability. Drawing on the traditional routes of the parka but not compromising on the quality with luxury fabrics and innovative design. The 49Winters parka coat design is unique because we separate the key features of the traditional parka with our unique 3-part system:
- The Outer shell: A three layer fabric with a highly breathable membrane and excellent water repellency, finished with a Teflon Coated finish for maximum durability.
- The Down: A featherweight tailored down jacket, that you can wear on its own in between seasons, or zip into a 49Winters outer shell for colder climates.
- The Trim: an optional feature to add further warmth and luxury
Whilst also retaining plentiful pockets for storage and drawstring channels. A 49Winters parka coat fits your everyday lives, not just extremes. A parka coat that can cope with the unpredictability of all seasons but still stand out as a luxury addition to your wardrobe throughout the year.
We dedicate a lot of time to understanding these needs and our mission has always been to discover a perfect axis that combines tailoring heritage with technical innovation to become a new standard in outerwear.
You can find out more about the evolution of our 3-part system in our latest blog.
Find your 49Winters style with our custom designs
Luxury outerwear is most certainly now a thing and the trusty parka is very much centre stage.