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A parka or anorak is a type of coat with a hood, often lined with fur or faux fur. The hood protects the face from freezing temperatures and wind. The Caribou Inuit invented this kind of garment, originally made from caribou or seal skin, for hunting and kayaking in the frigid Arctic. Some Inuit anoraks require regularly coating with fish oil to retain their water resistance.
The words anorak and parka have possibly been used interchangeably, but they are somewhat different garments. Strictly speaking, an anorak is a waterproof, hooded, pull-over jacket without a front opening, and sometimes drawstrings at the waist and cuffs, and a parka is a knee-length cold-weather coat; typically stuffed with down or very warm synthetic fiber, and with a fur-lined hood.
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 subsequently, in the United Kingdom, it is sometimes used as a mildly derogatory term.
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The amauti (also amaut or amautik, plural amautiit) is one of the world's most unusual garments. It is the parka worn by Inuit women of the eastern Canadian arctic. Up until about two years of age, the child nestles against the mother's back in the amaut, the built-in baby pouch just below the hood. The pouch is large and comfortable for the baby. The mother can bring the child from back to front for breast-feeding or for eliminatory functions without exposure to the elements. This traditional eastern Arctic Inuit parka, designed to keep the child warm and safe from frostbite, wind and cold, also helps to develop bonding between mother and child.
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 Originally made with a sage green DuPont flight silk nylon outer and lining it was padded with a wool blanket type material until the mid-1970s when the padding was changed to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. Original manufacturers of this parka for the government included Skyline, Southern Athletic, Lancer, Greenbrier, Workroom For Designers, Alpha, and Avirex. Older nylon-shell parkas have a tendency to exhibit a change in color from the original sage green to a shade of magenta due to long-term cumulative exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. To some in the military, this is personally desirable, as it lends to its wearer an aura of seasoned experience (referred to as salty by those in the US Navy and US Marine Corps). However, considered in a tactical environment, this is a liability, as it decreases one's ability to be camouflaged on the ground.
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.
In the late 1980s the snorkel parka became unpopular and was associated with geeks and nerds, helping to create the UK term anorak for such people (because trainspotters would supposedly wear anoraks whilst collecting numbers on cold railway platforms). As such it became highly unfashionable and for a time wearers became the subject of ridicule.
In Europe the snorkel parka started to regain popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s, being worn by the likes of Liam Gallagher, Kenny McCormick (South Park), and David Beckham. Around 2004, the traditional association with "Anoraks" had faded and the Snorkel Parka became a main-stream fashion jacket once more becoming particularly popular in the indie scene and with now middle-aged people recapturing memories of their school snorkel parkas. It is also once again popular as a school jacket, though at nothing like the same level of popularity as it achieved in the 1970s and 1980s.
Most modern parkas more closely resemble the original 1950s design and have lost the orange quilted lining of the 70's and 80's school parkas, however the old school style are now considered highly desirable selling for high prices in vintage clothing shops.
Following the end of the Second World War the realisation was that the US army would need a new cold weather system for fighting in as the existing kit just wasn't up to the job, the result of a concerted effort was the fishtail parka.
There are four main styles of fishtail parkas: the EX-48, M-48, M-51 and the M-65.
The M stands for military, and the number is the year it was standardized. The EX-48 model was the first prototype or "experimental" precursor to all of them. The M-48 then being the first actual production model fishtail parka after the pattern being standardised on December 24, 1948
The name fishtail comes from the fact that the coat is shaped like a fish tail at the back. This was so the coat could be tied around the upper legs, much like a Knochensack for added wind proofing as they are not, as some think, waterproof. The fishtail could be folded up using snap connectors, this enabled plenty of movement when most needed during combat.
The EX-48 parka is distinctive as it has a left sleeve pocket and is made of thin poplin, only the later production M-48 parkas are made of the heavier sateen canvas type cotton. The EX-48 also has a thin fibre glass based liner that is incredibly light and warm, the M-48 has a thicker wool pile liner with an integral hood liner made of wool. Both are distinguishable from any other type of parka by having the sleeve pocket. This was dropped for the M-51 onward The hood fur ruff is also fixed to the shell of an EX-48/M-48 as is wolf/Coyote or often wolverine. The M-48 parka was costly to produce and therefore only in production for around one year. The pockets were wool lined both inside and out. The cuffs had two buttons so that they could be secured tightly around a wearer's wrist. The later more mass-produced M-51 parka had just the one cuff button. The liner had a built in chest pocket which again was unique to the M-48 parka.
The next revision was the M-51, made because the M48 was so good and of such high quality it was just too expensive to mass-produce.
The outer hood of the M-51 Fishtail Parka is integral to the parka shell, an added hood liner as well as a button in main liner make the M-51 a versatile 3 piece parka. The idea behind this 3 part system was to enable a more customisable parka that allowed for easier cleaning of the shell as the hood fur was on the detachable hood liner, not fixed to the shell as in the M-48. It also allowed for both liners to be buttoned in or our depending on the temperature and hence warmth required. It was also cheaper than the M-48 to mass-produce The early M-51 was made of heavy sateen cotton, the same material as the M-48. Later revisions of the M-51 were poplin based. The later liners were also revised from the "heavy when wet" wool pile to a lighter woollen loop or frieze wool design that dried easier and were far lighter. The frieze liners were constructed of mohair and were designed using a double loop system which repelled cold weather.
The M-65 fishtail parka has a detachable hood and was the last revision. It features a removable quilted liner made of light nylon / polyester batting which are modern synthetic materials. The M-65 fishtail parka first came in to production in 1968. These parkas featured fake synthetic fur on the hoods after an outcry from the fur lobby. As a result, only hoods for these parkas made in 1972 and for one year later have real fur.
Designed primarily for combat arms forces such as infantry, they are to be worn over other layers of clothing; alone, the fishtail parka is insufficient to protect against "dry cold" conditions (i.e. below about -10°C). As such all fishtail parkas are big as they were designed to be worn over battle dress and other layers.
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 and protecting smarter clothes underneath from grease and dirt 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.
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