An up-to-date military-inspired classic. Keep warm in style
August 05, 2022
We toyed with the idea of keeping this article super basic - just telling you: ‘our Lightweight Parka is our Smart Raincoat, made shorter, or our Windbreaker made longer.’ But you know us, we put a load of work into this one, and once we get something right, we do like to wax on a bit…
Let’s start with a picture.
The history of the parka (and the Ventile material so closely associated with it) is as exciting as it is obscure. It’s all cloak, dagger, and well-dressed swagger. Many versions of this history exist, and there’s a fair bit of spicy debate around it in the cut-throat world of jacket-historians, but that said, this much we are confident about:
- The name ‘parka’ derives from the "parqaaq" - meaning warmth in the language of Russia’s Samoyed peoples. It’s also the term used to describe the skin and fur coats that the indigenous peoples of Siberia made to protect themselves from extreme cold.
- The word reached the Western world during the Second World War when the American army integrated their take on the original parqaaq into the kit of its soldiers.
- The boffins at Manchester’s Shirley Institute, at the request of the Royal Air Force, came up with the famous Ventile fabric. The material was designed to be comfortable for pilots while flying, then extremely warm and water resistant once in contact with water… The invention saved the lives of many aircrew forced to bail out into the sea during the war.
- It is said that the parka freed itself from the military world in the ‘60s, joining the wardrobes of British mods, before coming an all-time classic in the outerwear world... Now we’ve added it to our wardrobe too.
It’s probably no surprise the parka is a legendary item: it combines the key credentials of coats (warmth), trench coats (water repellency), jackets (freedom of movement) and puffer jackets (lightness), all with a truly iconic design. No need to explain any further why we wanted to offer you our own version, right?
A century between the moose skin parkas and our very-own Ventile Lightweight version. Credits : George R. King, The National Geographic Magazine, June 1917.
From the Siberian Tundra to Kurt Cobain's Seattle winters via a foray in the skies above the North Sea, the parka has travelled a long way. Sadly, not all current versions of the parka do justice to this epic item. We compiled the four main criticisms you levelled at most of the wannabe parkas on the market today:
- The cut’s too baggy
- The materials aren’t breathable
- Not water-repellent enough
- The finishing touches are MIA
A modern cut
It's one thing having a jacket bulky enough to keep you alive when you're chasing walruses on ice floes or bobbing about in the English Channel after being shot down, but for those of us who pilot nothing more exciting than a bike and primarily hunt for new pubs to visit, there's no point having an extra large parka. Ours has a rather tailored fit, with enough wiggle room to accommodate a heavy jumper or suit jacket, without you looking like that overstuffed walrus at the Horniman Museum.
We struck a nice balance on length too - it’s long enough to nail that parka feel, covering the upper thigh to keep you warm, but it’s short enough to be practical for the day-to-day. In three words: stylish, practical, modern. In two words: Lightweight Parka.
Not just hot air
Do we still need to introduce Ventile? Well, assume we do.
Praised for 70 years, Ventile is nothing less than the queen of the fabric kingdom. Tightly woven from cotton carefully selected for the length of its fibres, it’s breathable, windproof, water-repellent and weighing in at 240 g/m2, is comfortably light for the mid-season. The techy lowdown is that the material swells naturally with humidity, which gives it excellent resistance to water, without cutting off air circulation. In this way, it differs from waterproof membranes which are airtight... and can quickly leave you feeling like you’re locked in a Turkish bath, no foot massage included.
We chose this Ventile L19 to make our Light Parka, which comes straight from Stotz, the Swiss-based company that has a monopoly on its manufacture. If you’ve been swayed by our Smart Raincoat and our Windbreaker, you know what we are on about!
Keeping your body dry is all good and well, but you don’t want to get soaked from the head down either. No one wants cold rivulets running down their neck into their toasty Ventile cocoon. So, we designed a proper hood. It’s secured by a drawstring and made of the same water-repellent material as the body. Moreover, the hood has been matched with a rather generous high collar which you can close up to the chin. All in all - we are pretty confident that our Parka will keep you happy and dry from thigh to crown.
Unlike Siberian huntsmen and RAF pilots, you probably won't be jamming survival kits or weapons in your pockets (at least we hope not), but that's no reason not to have some seriously sturdy pockets on hand. We know you have all sorts of things to carry, and that's what the five pockets on our Light Parka are for. You'll find four neat ones on the outside (2 with flaps and 2 chest pockets for your mits) and one on the inside. The deep pockets have plenty of room for your stuff, and will keep them dry, avoiding the old soggy-wallet-waltz at checkout.
This Light Parka is the all-weather armour you dreamed of, right down to the last detail.
The zip and flap placket combination is your insurance against leaks. We didn't skimp on the seams either, so your Lightweight Parka won't give up after the first stormy night out. We've even used corded thread - a thread so thick it looks like a small rope - to reinforce areas that are subject to regular stress. A final word on the buttons: they are made of Corozo (Black or Navy versions) or Bio-based (Stone, Military green versions) and will not give up the ghost any time soon.
Trooping the colours
If you don't mind, we'll finish off with the colours...
- Military Green. More than just a tribute to the parkas of yesteryear, this is THE original colour for the parka.
- Where there’s water there’s Navy. Worn with a suit or a casual outfit, your Lightweight Parka will be at home at sea or on land. It’s un-messable-with, as far as jacket tones go.
- Black. We had to. Sober, elegant, classic. Need we say more? We didn't think so.
- Stone. A colour that evokes the classic trench coat, giving the parka a slightly more dressed-up look.
And that's it, it looks like we've covered it all!
Where do you parka?
So this piece of history returns in Lightweight version, ready for civvy street and a delight for the transition months.
All very well, but how do you get one? Well, the Lightweight Parka will be available to preorder for 199€ from Tuesday the 9th of August. And as usual, it’s first come first served.
If it doesn't work out, fear not, returns and exchanges are easy and the cost of the return is on us.
Need to know anything else? Drop it in the comments below or check our international Instagram page for the answer. Possibly.
The Asphalte Team