From indigenous people of the Arctic to Quadrophenia, by way of the US military and then indie bands, the parka has proved itself to be more than just a practical winter coat. Its name is the sole word in English derived from Nenets, the language spoken in the Arctic north of Russia close to where the parka originated. Typically made from caribou or sealskin and trimmed with fur, the hooded Inuit jacket is the model for today's parkas, which first came to prominence in the 1950s when the US military developed the N-3B snorkel parka.
The nylon N-3B was designed to withstand freezing temperatures thanks to its heavy padding and fur-edged hood that zipped all the way up to leave a small viewing aperture, hence the "snorkel" reference. In the 1960s, parka style made the transition from military to civilian wardrobe and was particularly popular in British schools. This set the stage for the parka's second major resurgence in the 1970s when it was adopted by mods, partly as a nostalgic reminder of their childhood, but also because it was practical for scooter riding, thanks to its weatherproof properties.
The lightweight fishtail parka immortalised in Quadrophenia, as well as on the cover of The Who's album of the same name, was also developed by the US army. Troops stationed in Vietnam had to be prepared for different climates, so the dark green M-51 and M-65 parkas were introduced. Not as padded as the snorkel model and with a looser fit, they enabled layers of clothing to be added or removed as the temperature changed.
Today, we like the parka because it is practical (whether you opt for a heavy, padded version for cold climates or a lighter model to fend off the rain and wind) and has an air of rebellion about it, while remaining stylish. The right one can look just as good worn with a suit as with casual attire. Here, we present you with just some of the men who have succumbed to the charms of the parka. A Vespa with a younger Twiggy lookalike perched on the back seat is an optional extra.