NCR: Style Council > Fishtail Parka
As the mercury starts to drop and I’m spending time on the West Coast this winter… I’ve started to notice how different the choice in outer wear is. Being in the Pacific North West is all about learning how to layer. One of the historical garments that has shown itself to be a staple is the Army Green Fishtail Parka.
I do see this garment as a global trend. Even at fashion week there were women mixing it up with designer clothing. So much so that now it’s a garment available for any budget or taste level. It literally goes from the penthouse to the pavement. My favourite for mid range is the one by Vancouver based retailer Aritzia. They have mastered this coat by really honing in on who their customer is. If you live in Vancouver, you can spot an “Aritzia Girl” on the street. My high end favourite is (no surprise here) iconic British label, Burberry. The detail and craftsmanship is impeccable. I found some photos via Pinterest and online to show a range of how it can be worn, as well as an article via www.hardandsmart.net (copied below) sharing the history of this seemingly wardrobe staple. I’ve already started wearing mine and it’s the perfect transitional piece. Enjoy your Parka Life this winter! ~ Sima
While some sources point out that the origins of this knee-length coat go back to as early as the 19th century, the truth is that the parka, as it is known nowadays, was used for the first time in 1951. In this year, the soldiers of the United States Army were equipped with such coats in order to cope with the extreme weather conditions they faced while fighting in the Korean War. It is actually where the first model got its name from: M1951 or M51 (M standing for ‘military’ and the year when it was standardized). This final model was the result of previous attempts to create the perfect version of the coat during the WWII, such as the OD-7 and the M-48. Even though this model was already resistant enough to be used in harsh conditions, its production was too expensive. When the demand increased, it was necessary to substitute certain materials for cheaper versions.
The M51 already had many elements that some parkas have today such as the fur trim and the detachable hood. The split back of the coat was meant to be tied with the front strings, so the parka would wrap around the legs and provide extra heat insulation. They were known as ‘fishtail’ coats because the back was longer than the front, which, for some people, must resemble a fish.
An original M51 can go up to £800-1000 on online auctions in the present.
It is not clear how the parka became so popular Britain during the following decade. Maybe it was due to the fact that it was broadly available from second hand military shops, that it was cheap and warm and, perhaps the key factor, that it was original - you wouldn’t spot anyone else wearing it on the streets. Mods, concerned with fashion and originality, immediately adopted the parka as an identifying element of their culture. And, turns out, it was also great for scooter riding.
As they would do with basically everything they owned, mods started to personalize their parkas, adapting them to their style and making them unique. Patches, pins, Union Jacks and RAF targets started to cover the sleeves and backs of these war coats.
The parka still remains as the most characteristic item of a mod’s wardrobe. It is still easy to find them in second hand army shops (not original M51s, unfortunately) and many clothing companies have designed their own models. For three or four years now, it is possible to see many different models in regular shops at affordable prices, but such firms tend to reinterpret it according to today’s trends - with more and less fortunate results. But, if you can afford to go a bit higher, brands such as Merc London have parkas in their current collections (both for men and women). Proof that it is as fashionable as always, an M65 parka was one of the most demanded items of the 2012 clothing collection by Lambretta and Trojan Records.
photos: Pinterest, Aritzia, Burberry,
Article & b&w photos via: www.hardandsmart.net