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The History of The PARKA: Our Story
Every year we're launching a new season we go back in history and take a look back to our heritage.
The word ‘Parka’ means ‘animal skin’ and originates from the Arctic regions around Northern Russia and Alaska. Originally the indigenous Inuit made parka coats from seal skin to shield themselves from the extreme arctic climates whilst hunting and kayaking. The functional design also enabled them to protect, transport and feed their young. Usually long in length with a fur lined hood and roomy proportions to ensure insulation and protection; the parka was also treated with fish oil to help keep it water resistant.
The Military Parka
Enter the 1940’s and with-it WWII, bringing the parka back to the forefront of functional design. Retaining some of the qualities of the Inuit parka, the fur lined parka coats were introduced as military issue to keep the soldiers; including our founder Alfie Lever, protected from the elements. Strong winds and bitterly cold weather conditions during action required the most technically engineered outerwear which continued to evolve all the way into the 1950’s.
The War is Over
With the ending of WWII there is a sense of liberation and the parka goes along for the ride; free to take on a new role it fast becomes a wardrobe staple for a new, modern way of living.
These post-war years also sees Alfie Lever open an outerwear factory in East London’s Spitalfields, manufacturing his RAF inspired parka coats. Drawn to it’s utilitarian style, the Mods adopt the look. The parka becomes synonymous with Vespa and Lambretta scooters, modern jazz music and youth culture.
Laid Back Luxury
A decade on and the swinging ’60s has landed, Alfie Lever’s parkas are being sold in the boutiques of iconic Carnaby street and Soho, frequented by the likes of the Rolling Stones. Mods style their Italian tailoring with their military parka coats, decorated with badges from their favourite bands.
From this time into the '90s and early ’00s, the Parka evolves again, adopting a more contemporary style famously displayed by Gallagher brothers, Blur and bands of the Mod Revival and Brit Pop culture. Film star Phil Daniels of iconic 70's film Quadrophenia even wears PARKA London for the film's anniversary celebrations.
The Future is Parka
The journey of the humble parka is far from complete and here at PARKA London we continually strive to elevate this cherished outerwear style on par with a great pair of jeans or pair of canvas sneakers. We believe no wardrobe is complete without a PARKA London coat.