The Parka: Style Or Utility

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A truly enduring British style icon, the parka has spanned several generations of youth culture and remains as popular today as it was when this heavy duty item of US Army outerwear first became de rigueur for scooter-riding Mods in the early Sixties.

Developed by the US Army after World War II and first seeing active service in the freezing conditions of Korea in the early 1950s, it was the parka – more specifically the M51 model of ‘fishtail’ parka, rather than its cousin, the N3B ‘snorkel’ – that first captured the imagination of British Mods looking for a utilitarian coat to protect their stylish clothes from dirt and grime when travelling by scooter. Mass-produced by the military, it was easily affordable for cash-strapped teens and readily available from any army surplus store.

The popularity of the parka came from its practicality. Originally designed to be worn over full combat uniform, the parka was large enough to cover any tailored suit and robust enough to survive the elements of a bank holiday scooter ride to the coast. With its fox fur lined hood and its ‘fishtail’ specially designed to be tied around the legs for extra insulation, it was even warm enough to sleep in on the beach if necessary. Of course, if your scooter broke down, you could just spread the parka on the ground to protect your clothes while doing the repairs.

Parkas were easy to customize too, an added bonus for the Pop Art obsessed Mods: patches, badges, slogans, union jacks and targets were added to enliven the military sage green.

 

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Source: The Parka: Style Or Utility

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