If you want to remain warm and dry in even the trickiest of weather conditions, there’s no better companion than a parka. This versatile jacket has served the military for decades, saved the lives of countless explorers and even protected the Italian suits worn by the Mods, who’d favour theirs with penny loafers and Vespa scooters.
Parkas come in a few varying styles of course, but they all share a few things in common. They’re timeless, adaptable and will have your back throughout the coldest and darkest winter months.
If you don’t own one, now is the time to put it right.
What Is A Parka Jacket?
A parka is a simple garment, really. It’s defined by its length, usually finishing anywhere from just below the waist to the knee, and its hood. It’s not a parka without a hood. It was originally an essential of the Inuit wardrobe, where it was used for protection when hunting or hiking, although it wouldn’t have smelt that great given that it was crafted from seal skin.
Parkas today have thankfully innovated somewhat with fabrication, and you can find versions made from all manner of technical fabrics alongside cotton and wool.
They are two core types of parkas. The first is the Arctic style, which is the natural descendent of the original Inuit design. This is the coat you’d take on an expedition somewhere very, very cold. It comes in a mid length and typically features a multitude of pockets for keeping personal items safe. Fabrics range from treated cotton to high-tech poly blends, while inside you’ll find insulation padding in the form of down feathers or synthetic wadding. Similarly, the hood might feature real or faux fur to deflect wind chill and often comes padded for additional warmth.
The second common parka design is based on the M-65, which itself was US military issue from 1968. It’s also known as a ‘fishtail’ parka, thanks to its distinctive hem, which could be tied together to help protect the wearer from getting their legs wet. This style is typically lighter and more suited to rain showers than Arctic exploration. It’s an excellent alternative to a standard raincoat or mac, and comes with large front pockets, an adjustable waist and a large hood.
Decide What You Need It For
The main thing to consider when buying a parka is when and where you’re going to wear it. It’s perhaps best to begin by deciding whether you want a heavyweight, full-blown winter coat, or something lighter and better for layering.
For ultimate warmth and weather protection, a technical Arctic-style parka is the way to go. If you simply want to stay dry, while also channelling a slightly subversive, subcultural edge, the classic fishtail parka (or a variation of it) is the only choice.
You can go as playful or as sombre as you like with a parka. They come in a wide range of colours, from bright orange and red (so you’re easily visible in the Arctic) through to classic olive drab and black.
Want to make a splash? Try pairing a red expedition parka with selvedge denim, retro running shoes and a baseball cap. Thinking of a tactical all-black look? Go monochrome with a lightweight parka and combine it with a work shirt and slim black jeans.
The Best Men’s Parka Jacket Brands
When it comes to affordable outerwear, Uniqlo is hard to beat. The Japanese giant regularly pumps out classically styled, well-made staples, including parkas.
We’re big fans of its lightweight packable designs and acclaimed Ultra Warm down coats – the former are ideal for those always on the move, while the latter will keep you toasty even in sub-zero conditions.
If Uniqlo is the go-to for simple classics, COS is the home of slightly more directional, minimal designs.
As you’d imagine then, its parkas are sleek and streamlined, yet still manage to incorporate a number of handy features, including large, discrete front pockets and interior compartments.
For the ultimate in wind and rain protection, look to Arc-teryx. The acclaimed outdoors brand collaborates with the world’s finest mills to create the lightest, most durable weatherproof fabrics, which ensure its parkas are always a cut above the competition.
Private White VC
Private White VC produces all of its clothes at its own factory, in the heart of Manchester, England. This means it can claim a level of quality control that most brands can only dream of.
Its range of parkas is exceptional, offering traditional designs that will never fall out of style in military grade ripstop as well as waxed cotton.
High-street stalwart Reiss is renowned for its tailoring, which is some of the best you’ll find at the mid-price point. But its outerwear deserves a nod too.
Expect similarly sleek, tailored parkas which complement jeans and knitwear as well as they do suits.
The name perhaps gives it away, but Rains does one thing especially well: raincoats. The brand uses a distinctive, lightweight, water-resistant fabric and simple, pared-back design to produce high-performing parkas that minimalists will love.
Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer never veers too far away from tradition. As such, its parkas take their styling cues from the good ol’ days. Expect Arctic-style coats with large pockets and big hoods, as well as lighter weight rainproof designs that are ideal for layering.
Finisterre made its name producing exemplary outerwear, designed primarily for hiking and outdoor pursuits. It combines practicality with a timeless, technical aesthetic, ensuring its parkas will look as good now as they will in a decade’s time.
A.P.C. is well known for combining simple French design with outstanding quality. Its parkas are no exception, often made from durable cotton or wool and finished in a muted colour palette of navy, black or stone.
You’d struggle to walk down a high street today and not see someone wearing a North Face coat. Its puffer jackets may be most popular, but its parkas are just as good with their panelled designs, vibrant colourways and distinctive branding.