Parkas are resilient coats, always have been. These winter jackets have been able to evolve from a protective coat made for hunting and kayaking in the frigid Arctic to a fashionable signature urban item.
All this, without losing its performative protection against the cold weather. Wonder when the parka became the coat as we know it? Then it has to be the snorkel parka.
Snorkel parka for temperatures −51 °C
The original snorkel parka was a military coat developed in the United States during the early 1950s. As it was one of the best cold-proof outfits, it was mainly for flight crews stationed in pretty freezing areas, with temperatures as low as −51 °C.
The outer lining was initially made with a DuPont flight silk nylon outer in sage green, which then became parkas’ signature colour. At that time, it was padded with a wool blanket type material, but in the mid-1970s, the padding was changed to polyester wadding.
This material made the jacket warmer and lighter (and more efficient for physical activity). The outer shell material also was changed to a sage green cotton-nylon blend.
The design of the snorkel parka (also known as N-3B) was copied and sold to the civilian market by many manufacturers with varying degrees of quality and faithfulness to the original government specifications. Surplus military parkas were in such good quality that they are often available in good conditions for relatively low prices.
Where did the “snorkel parka” gain its name?
It was commonly named snorkel parka as the hood can be zipped right up, leaving only a small tunnel (or snorkel) for the wearer to look out of. Although it meant limiting the field of vision and hearing, this made it particularly effective in freezing and windy weather. During the earlier Vietnam-era hoods with ruffs were introduced, which had genuine fur ruffs at the beginning while later versions used synthetic furs.
During the 1970s–1980s, civilians started to embrace parkas as an everyday urban and trendy item. In Europe, the snorkel parka started to regain momentum in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Is the snorkel parka the same as the fishtail parka?
The fishtail parka, a signature item among the mod subculture, gets its name from the fishtail extension at the back that could be folded up between the legs and fixed using snap connectors to add wind-proofing.
If you want to understand if you’re in front of a snorkel of a fishtail, you can just have a quick look at the back!
Image source: Wikimedia