home   |   our Parkas   |   about Alaska   |   clothes of Alaska   |   contact us
inuit in national clothes
Anorak, parka, alaska. what is it?
An anorak or parka is a type of heavy jacket with a hood, often lined with fur or fake fur, so as to protect the face from a combination of freezing temperatures and wind. This kind of garment, originally made from caribou or seal was invented by the Caribou Inuit, Inuit (Eskimo) of the Arctic region, who needed clothing that would protect them from wind chill and wetness while hunting and kayaking. Certain types of Inuit anoraks have to be regularly coated with fish oil to keep their water resistance.

The words anorak and parka are now often used interchangeably, but when first introduced, they described somewhat different garments, and the distinction is still maintained by some. Strictly speaking, an anorak is a waterproof jacket with a hood and drawstrings at the waist and cuffs, and a parka is a knee-length cold-weather jacket or coat; typically stuffed with down or very warm synthetic fiber, and with a fur-lined hood. Originally, an anorak specifically implied a pull-over jacket without a zipper, button, or frogged opening, but this distinction is now largely lost, and many garments with a full-length front opening are now described as anoraks. The anorak and parka have been developed from their traditional forms into a number of different designs using modern materials, notably the Fishtail and Snorkel parkas and the Cagoule, a form of lightweight anorak.

original snorkel parka Nord Storm Husky
The word anorak comes from the Kalaallisut word anoraq. It did not appear in English until 1924; an early definition is "gay beaded item worn by Greenland women or brides in the 1930s". In the early 1950s it was made from nylon, but changed to poplin by 1959, when it was featured in Vogue magazine as a fashion item. In 1984, the Observer newspaper used the term to refer to the type of people who wore it, and "an anorak" became a derogatory term for trainspotters or nerds.

The word parka is derived from the Nenets language. In the Aleutian Islands the word simply means "animal skin". It first entered the English written record in a 1625 work by Samual Purchas.

The amauti (also amaut or amautik, plural amautiit) is the traditional eastern Arctic Inuit parka designed to carry a child in the same garment as the parent so that the child is warm and safe from frostbite, wind and cold. The amauti can be made from a variety of materials including sealskin, caribou skin or duffle (a thick woollen cloth) with a windproof outer shell. Children continue to be commonly carried in this way in the eastern Arctic communities of Nunavut and Nunavik, but the garment is sometimes seen in the Northwest Territories, Greenland, Labrador and Alaska. Traditionally the mother or female care-giver wears an amauti, but the garment may also be worn by fathers or male care-givers. A male who wears an amauti is said, in the south Baffin tradition, to be probably more successful when next hunting for certain species of animals.

original snorkel parka Nord Storm Husky
The original snorkel parka (USAF N-3B parka, which is 3/4 length and has a full, attached hood; the similar N-2B parka is waist-length and has an attached split hood) was developed in the USA during the early 1950s for military use, mainly for flight crews stationed in extremely cold areas, designed as it was for temperatures down to —60 °F (~—50 °C). Originally made with a sage green DuPont flight silk nylon outer and lining it was padded with a wool blanket type material until the mid 1970s when the padding was changed to polyester wadding making the jacket both lighter and warmer. The outer shell material also was changed to a sage green cotton-nylon blend, with respective percentages 80–20, 65–35, and 50–50 being used at various times. It gained the common name of "Snorkel Parka" because the hood can be zipped right up leaving only a small tunnel (or snorkel) for the wearer to look out of. This is particularly effective in very cold, windy weather although it has the added liabilities of seriously limiting the field of vision and hearing. Earlier (Vietnam-era) hoods had genuine fur ruffs on the hoods; later versions used synthetic furs.

The basic N-3B parka design 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 are often available for relatively low prices online and in surplus stores; they compare quite favorably with civilian extreme-cold parkas of all types due to their robust construction, designed for combat conditions, and warmth, at (usually) significantly lower prices. However, one would have to be satisfied with the single color choice of sage green.

The fishtail parka was first used by the United States Army in 1951 to help protect soldiers from the elements in the Korean War.

modified alaska Nord Storm Sitka
In the 1960s UK, the fishtail parka became a symbol of the mod subculture. Due to their practicality, cheapness and availability from army surplus shops, the parka was seen as the ideal garment for fending off the elements when on the mod's vehicle of choice, the scooter. Its place in popular culture was assured by newspaper pictures of parka-clad mods during the Bank Holiday riots of the 1960s.

A cagoule which can be rolled up into a very compact package and carried in a bag or pocket was invented by Noel Bibby of Peter Storm Ltd. in the early 1960s. It has an integral hood, elasticated or drawstring cuffs, and a few poppers or a short zip at the neck. Like the original Aleut anorak it does not open fully at the front and must be pulled on over the head. In some versions, when rolled up, the hood doubles as a bag into which the rest of the coat is pushed. It became very popular in the United Kingdom during the 1970s

home   |   our Parkas   |   about Alaska   |   clothes of Alaska   |   contact us