We’ve already delved into the history of the Fishtail Parka (derived from the M-51) which is best associated with the Mods of the 1950s, but this season’s lightweight Lyle and Scott mountain parka is more likened to the USAF N-3B parka, also known as the Snorkel Parka.
The N-3B was developed by the US Air Force in the early 1950s. Unlike the N-2B it had a full hood (not a zip through hood). It gained the common name ‘Snorkel Parka’ because the hood can be zipped right up leaving only a small opening (of snorkel mask shape) for the wearer to look out of. This is offered exceptional defence against the cold wind of Baltic countries, although it did have the nuisance of limiting peripheral vision and hearing.
As with so many military influenced pieces, the Snorkel Parka went mainstream, it was picked up and adapted by a number of companies. By the 70s these parkas were being sold as a fairly cheap but hardy and warm jacket which made them popular with parents so that swarms of children donned this jacket for school each day (encapsulated by Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole!). They often had a bright orange contrast lining and faux fur trimmed hood. But as with many trends this look had fallen out of favour just a decade later.
During the mid 1980s the padded nylon parkas gained a reputation of being geeky. The term ‘Anorak’ was coined by The Observer in 1984 to describe trainspotters who would wear these practical parkas whilst recording train numbers track side. The parka had been relegated to the sidelines, but as with all trends it would be due a resurgence.
That resurgence came in the late 90s with Britpop bands such as Oasis and Blur championing the parka. Materials were usually nylon and polyester and designers experimented with bold colour options. There was a nostalgia to the parka trend this time around. It was a nod to Thatcherite Britain and the Parka was worn as a working class badge of honour.
Modern parkas are more streamlined and have a contemporary cut. Gone are the faux fur trimmed hoods of the late 90s and the bulky padded torsos. Our mountain parka fuses the military roots of the jacket with the current trend for outdoors, hiking inspired and rugged menswear. A more streamlined silhouette is quite far removed from the old fashioned 70s parka style and means you can layer up with chunky knitwear without looking too hulking. Meanwhile, the roomy hood with the original snorkel parka style opening, Velcro cuffs and bellows pockets all help to protect against the elements. All the items in our styled parka look are available online from the Lyle and Scott Vintage range.