When you think about British style, the parka is truly iconic – from its look to its feel and robust nature.
After first being created by Inuit people who used seal skin to design a functional and lengthy coat to protect themselves in bitterly-freezing conditions, the parka has taken on a number of variations. Soon mod culture, rockstars and style icons took over, with the item worn on the stage and high street as a truly iconic piece of British clothing.
Dating back to the 1950s, the parka gained prominence in western culture as a piece worn by the US military.
Simple and practical, the parka was also heavy-duty and protective as soldiers wore the sage green garment with the eponymous fur-lined hood, over their military uniforms. It was also developed throughout the Korean War as the three-quarter length fishtail parka became a particular favourite to keep soldiers warm during the unrelenting weather conditions.
As practical and robust as the parka was, there was still something special about it. And it wasn’t long before the British subcultures during the late 1950s and early 1960s took ownership of the parka – seeing it as a symbol of youthful rebellion.
Part of every mod’s wear as they jumped on their scooters, the bulky coat was enough to make way for a suit underneath but still ensured that it possessed style and originality. That also showed in the iconic photographs which followed of mods on scooters during the Bank Holiday riots of the 1960s as the parka became synonymous with the historical moment and the culture it inspired.
It also proved for inspiration from British rockstars, The Who, as their parka-inspired Quadrophenia album cover hit the shelves in the 1970s across the UK and America. The piece also galvanised a revival 20 years later as parka-clad groups, Oasis and Blur, battled it out for top spot in the charts using their fashion to create a Britpop movement. From headline-grabbing musicians Liam Gallagher and Damon Albarn becoming well-known for wearing hooded parkas as part of their everyday wear such as Hollywood A-listers Daniel Craig and Keanu Reeves or modern men Tom Hardy and Bradley Cooper donning the padded, hooded versions, the parka has firmly cemented its place in fashion history across the pond.
With the respect and heritage that comes with such a versatile and timeless product, this seasonal wardrobe essential has been adapted by Ben Sherman too as a reflection of the brand’s own story and mod culture affiliation with the parka. Reworking a British classic, our fishtail parka is accompanied with draw cords, an adjustable hood and a waist for customised styling that’s perfect for the autumnal months. Or there’s our stylish hooded parka which is detachable and has Borg lining and a draw cord waist which fuses brings together fashion and versatility.
There’s one thing that remains for the instantly recognisable parka despite its numerous developments, and that is that it has truly become a menswear fashion staple.