This kind of garment, originally made from caribou or seal was invented by the Caribou Inuit, Inuit (Eskimo) of the Arctic region, who needed clothing that would protect them from wind chill and wet while hunting and kayaking. The word anorak comes from the Kalaallisut word anoraq, while the word parka is of Aleut origin. Certain types of Inuit anoraks have to be regularly coated with fish oil to keep their water resistance.
The words anorak and parka are now often used interchangeably, but when first introduced, they described somewhat different garments, and the distinction is still maintained by some. Strictly speaking, an anorak is a waterproof jacket with a hood and drawstrings at the waist and cuffs, and a parka is a knee-length cold-weather jacket or coat; typically stuffed with down or very warm synthetic fiber, and with a fur-lined hood. Originally an anorak specifically implied a pull-over jacket without a zipper, button or frogged opening, but this distinction is now largely lost, and many garments with a full-length front opening are now described as anoraks. The anorak and parka have been developed from their traditional forms into a number of different designs using modern materials, notably the Fishtailand Snorkel parkas and the Cagoule, a form of lightweight anorak.
The original Snorkel Parka (USAF N3B parka or USAR M1951 field jacket) was developed in the USA during the early 1950's for military use. Originally made with a DuPont flight silk nylon outer and lining it was padded with a wool blanket type material until the mid 70's when the padding was changed to polyester wadding making the jacket both lighter and warmer. It gained the common name of "Snorkel Parka" because the hood can be zipped right up leaving only a small tunnel (or snorkel) for the wearer to look out of. This is particularly effective in very cold, windy weather although it has the added liability of seriously limiting the field of vision.
The snorkel parka attained its popularity high point in the late 70's to mid 80's when its cheap and hard wearing properties made it the jacket of choice for school kids. It became so popular that at many schools (in the UK) almost every boy had one. Whilst the original N3B parka lining was un-quilted and the same colour as the outer shell, the school type parkas usually has quilted orange lining. The measure of a school parka quickly became how grubby the orange lining got through natural wear without washing and many schoolboy parkas ended their days with the lining more black than orange.
Brands such as Lord Anthony, Campri, Keynote and Brutus made their names selling snorkel parkas.
In the late 1980's the snorkel parka became unpopular and was associated with geeks and nerds, helping to create the UK term 'anorak' for such people. As such it became highly unfashionable and for a time wearers became the subject of ridicule.
In Europe the snorkel parka began to gain popularity again in the late 1990s and early 2000s, being worn by the likes of Liam Gallagher and David Beckham. Around 2004, the traditional association with "Anoraks" had faded and the Snorkel Parka became a main-stream fashion jacket once more becoming particularly popular in the indie scene and with now middle-aged people recapturing memories of their school snorkel parkas. It is also once again popular as a school jacket, though at nothing like the same level of popularity as it achieved in the 1970s and 80s.
Most modern parkas more closely resemble the original 1950's design and have lost the orange quilted lining of the 70's school parkas, however the old school style are now considered highly desirable selling for high prices in vintage clothing shops.
Snorkel jackets remain very popular within Hip Hop culture being worn by both men and women.
The Fishtail Parka was first used by the United States Army in 1951 to help protect soldiers from the elements in the Korean War.
There are two main styles of fishtail parkas; the M-51 fishtail parka; and the M-65. The M stands for military, and the number is the the year it was designed. The name fishtail comes from the fact that the coat is longer at the back than it is at the front. This was so the coat could be tied around the upper legs for added wind proofing as they are not, as some think, waterproof. The hood of the M-51 Field Jacket is integral to the jacket and folds down inside the jacket collar when not in use. The M-65 Fishtail parka has a detatchable hood. Both types feature a removable liner.
In the 1960s, the fishtail parka became a symbol of the mod subculture. Due to their practicality, cheapness and availability from army surplus shops, the parka was seen as the ideal garment for fending off the elements when on the mod's vehicle of choice, the scooter. Its place in popular culture was assured by newspaper pictures of parka-clad mods during the Bank Holiday riots of the 1960s.
A cagoule which can be rolled up into a very compact package and carried in a bag or pocket was invented by Noel Bibby of Peter Storm Ltd. in the early 1960s. It has an integral hood, elasticated or drawstring cuffs, and a few poppers or a short zip at the neck. Like the original Aleut anorak it does not open fully at the front and must be pulled on over the head. In some versions, when rolled up, the hood doubles as a bag into which the rest of the coat is pushed. It became very popular in the United Kingdom during the 1970s.
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Feb 19, 2001; Eminem wears one, the British Museum has an exhibition devoted to them, and a whole sub-section of society has been named after...