Although the design is of Inuit invention, the word parka is of Russian derivation, meaning "reindeer fur coat." With the Inuit people of Canada's Arctic region living in some of the planet's most extreme climates, the parka, like many pieces of outerwear, was originally designed to provide warmth for its wearer. Often two parkas would be worn together (one with the fur facing outward, the other, fur inward) to allow for better insulation and air circulation even in the coldest of temperatures. But although several layers may be worn, the parka remains a fully functional garment, as Betty Kobayashi Issenman explains in Sinews of Survival:

The cut and tailoring of Inuit costume create garments that are loose yet fitted when necessary and that admirably meet the requirements of hunter and mother. Hood construction with its close fit and drawstring, ensures clear peripheral vision. Capacious shoulders allow the wearer to carry out complex tasks (p. 40).

It was this ease of movement and the ability to withstand subzero temperatures that led the U.S. army to adopt and adapt the Inuit-styled parka to suit its own needs during World War II.

The prototype field cotton parka was a long skirted, hooded jacket that formed the windproof outer shell for severe conditions. The field parka . . . was standardised after shortening to raise the lower closure to waist level. The longer version was modified by adding fur trimming to the hood (p. 188).

The later nylon-cotton mix M1951, available in olive and white colors, was developed to include a removable mohair liner, snap-fastened fly front, adjustable cuffs, and split lower-back sections, and was filled with quilted nylon.

In the mid-1960s, benefiting from fabric developments initiated by the U.S. Army, the nylon parka, worn with tapered stretch pants, became a fashion staple on European ski slopes. Parkas with reversible quilting, corduroy, leather trims, and leather shoulders were all available in a multitude of colors and patterns. Some skiers went for the longer parka while many preferred the shorter version as it was more versatile on the slope as well as for après ski.

During the early to mid-1960s, some of the pioneers in the mod subculture adopted the original army parkas as protection for their much-prized bespoke suits while on their scooters. This helped to move the parka off the ski slopes and into the conventional wardrobe. The parka has remained a winter-fashion constant since the 1960s.

See also Coat; Inuit and Arctic Dress; Outerwear; Wind-breaker.


Amies, Hardy. A,B,C of Men's Fashion. London: Cahill and Company Ltd., 1964. Byrde, Penelope. The Male Image: Men's Fashion in England,

1300-1970. London: B.T. Batsford, Ltd., 1979. Chenoune, Farid. A History of Men's Fashion. Paris: Flammarion, 1993.

De Marley, Diana. Fashion for Men: An Illustrated History. London: B.T. Batsford, Ltd., 1985. Issenman, Betty. Sinews of Survival: The Living Legacy of Inuit Clothing. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1997.

Schoeffler, O.E., and William Gale. Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th

Century Fashions. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973. Stanton, Shelby. U.S. Army Uniforms of World War II. Harrisburg, Penn.: Stackpole Books, 1991.

Tom Greatrex

PASHMINA. See Cashmere and Pashmina.

PATOU, JEAN Jean Patou (1880-1936) was born in Normandy in northwestern France in 1880. His father was a prosperous tanner who dyed the very finest leathers for bookbinding, and his uncle, with whom he went to work in 1907, sold furs. In 1910 Patou opened a dressmaking and fur establishment that foundered, reportedly

Army Uniforms 1910
Jean Patou, 1926. Patou opened his first dressmaking shop in 1910. Though the shop failed, within a few years Patou's designs became popular on both sides of the Atlantic, and he was a leading courtier into the 1930s. © HultonArchive/Getty Images. Reproduced by permission.

due to insufficient funding, although he was able to open a tailoring business in Paris the following year. In 1912 he opened Maison Parry, a small salon located at 4, Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées, which offered dressmaking, tailoring, and furs. Patou's designs were striking for their simplicity in comparison to the prevailing fashions, although his biographer quoted him as stating that this change was the result of ignorance rather than any great fashion instinct. In 1913 a major New York City buyer known as the elder Lichtenstein praised Patou as an innovator and purchased the designer's entire collection, presaging his future popularity in the United States.

100 Fashion Tips

100 Fashion Tips

One of the most important things you need to take note of about becoming fashionable is to get fitter. Therefore, if you are carrying some extra pounds, then you should lose some of it soon. You can do it through dieting, working out, or a good combination of both. Find more fashion tips like this one within this guide.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment