Cold Weather Clothes: Parkas

Figure 1.--

The parka has been worn as a boy's winter coat in both America and Brirain. We know less about the popularity in other countries.


A parka is a fur coat cut like a shirt with a hood and commonly worn in northeastern Asia and Alaska. Wool garments marketed as parkas appeared in the late 19th or early 20th century. These garments were made with a detachable hood. I believe the term parka was originally Russian.


One reader reports American boys wore snorkel parkas in the early 1980s. They were normally blue or khaki, with a bright orange inner liner.

Country Trends

We have a little information about parkas worn in different countries.


I can remember American boys wearing parkas in the 1970s. They seem to have been quite popular. A HBC reader reports that parkas were very popular for boys in the 90s, especially thouse with team logos on them. They were usually down filled and nylon. The hood were either zip-off or permanently attached. In California, they aren't worn as much since they are no longer as "cool" as they once were. However, they remain very popular in colder areas of the US. Now they are worn by necessity, more than for the "cool" factor. Another reader reports that Parkas were extremely popular for U.S. kids in the late 80s and early 90s. The nylon parkas in pro sports team colors and insignias made by Starter were so popular that kids would wear them in the warms summer months as well as in the winter. You could see them is shorts and parkas, which made for an interesting site, (although California kids will wear shorts all year round). The craze died out in the early 90s and the parkas you see kids wearing now are ski jackets or heavy winter ones.


The parka was adopted by some British and Scottish private schools for winter wear. I first noted this in the 1970s, but presumably it was adopted for schoolwear earlier. American boys were also wearing parkas in the 1970s, but not as school uniforms. We also note parkas being worn by school boys in the 1980s. There appear to be both a fish tail mod variety and an acrylic snorkel hooded version.


New Zealand

A New Zealand reader tellsus, "Came across this website by chance and whilst looking for pockets found parka. In New Zealand this is a light rain jacket, usually waist length or covering the bottom, sometimes pull over the head and usually with a hood. However I think we spell it parkha. Although in common use I can't recall ever having written it, which might indicate, as with many words used in New Zealand, that it originated in India."


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Created: November 1, 2001
Last updated: March 18, 2003