There was a time when my parka, or anorak, pretty much defined me... mainly, because I usually had 'M-O-D' spelled out somewhere on it, either in badge or patch form. I was proud of that parka. I felt like I was carrying on a tradition started by sixties Mods, popularized by Quadrophenia, and celebrated by bands like the Merton Parkas and The Sussed. But then, gradually, I phased the parka out of my wardrobe completely. Well, here today, I'll explain how I turned away from
I was about 16 years old when I bought my first 'parka,' which was really just a short non-fishtail army jacket with a hood that you could zip up inside the jacket to hide it away. Sadly, I don't remember much about the patches and badges I stuck to this jacket, but I do remember what I did to the back of it. One evening, while watching an episode of Twin Peaks, I took up some fabric paint (red, white, and blue) and MOD-ified my anorak with a famous Mod song title, Mod symbology, and some 'Mod' band logos spanning the '60s-'80s. Since that jacket was lost during one of my family's moves and I have no pictures of it, allow me to re-create it here through the magic of Photoshop:
|Recreation of my first high school parka.|
I only wore this for about a year or so because my father soon handed down his own army parka to me. No, he didn't earn it fighting overseas... he picked it up at a surplus shop. But for me, this was the real deal! Now, I don't really know a whole lot about the different types of army jackets there are, but once, I walked into an army surplus shop while wearing this anorak, and it really impressed the Korean store owner. He told us it was pretty rare and offered to buy it from me. But I kept it. I had to... it was Mod.
Of course, there was no way I could walk around campus in a plain ol' army parka. No, I had to add the 'Mod' touch to it. So, I took my old Jam t-shirt, cut out the design, and sewed it on to the back. Now, everyone would know who my favorite band was! Then, I added a couple of rally patches, a Who target patch, some Mod badges to the front and voila! I was a walking Mod advertisement! The only thing missing was an "EAT AT MOD JOE'S" sign somewhere on the jacket.
|My parka... today.|
The older I got, the more I realized that I didn't want or need a parka to speak for me. I didn't care if the whole world knew I liked whatever Mod bands were on the parka. And as my wardrobe improved over those early years, I didn't want to cover it up with a beaten-up old army anorak. I started to see so much more value in a nice overcoat, something that looked sharp on the outside, while protecting the clothes underneath. I thought Paul Weller was on to something in those early Style Council photo shoots. And I saw other friends who demonstrated just how much more polished a sharp coat looked over the typical parka:
|Photo from around 1994 of old pal, Jarrod L., of the Le Drugstore 1968 blog.|
These days, I prefer this look:
|Fellow dapper-nisto Douglas Dillon, my wife Irene, and I, enjoying an evening out. Photo courtesy of Douglas's more stylin' half, Rosa Dillon.|
Oh sure, I understand how useful parkas can be in certain situations*. They're probably great for riding through a dirt storm on your scooter or protecting your clothes from all those bugs flying in to you. And I understand their use in the foggy weather conditions of London, the harsh winters of the American east coast, or the never-ending rains of the upper west coast. But why on Earth would you wear a parka in the warmer states, warmer countries, or, heck, south of the San Francisco Bay Area?
Heck, I live in the Bay Area and no matter how cold it gets here, I still don't toss on the ol' anorak! Why would I want to cover up a nice ensemble with an army parka or let the parka display what I'm about? I don't need a parka to announce to the world what I'm into. That's what my actual clothes underneath are for. I'd rather have a nice, sharp suit take precedent over a parka covered in patches and buttons.
And yes, I know plenty of Mods wore them in the sixties. They were probably affordable, accessible, and really useful in protecting your clothes in harsh weather or while fixing your scooter. But hey, as this photo shows, not all Mods wore parkas! Or at least they didn't wear them all the time.
|Photo of Nottingham Mods, courtesy of the Jack That Cat Was Clean blog.|
|Photo of Karen F., of the 97 Things To Do Before I Turn 97 blog, hi-jacking my parka. Photo courtesy of my wife, Irene (who says she never went through a parka phase).|
First up, let's check out Mr. Modfather himself, Paul Weller, back during his early Style Council days when he started wearing a beautiful white mac. This was probably one of my early non-parka influences:
Okay, remember this dapper little kid?
Let's move on then to a sixties Mod icon. What about Steve Marriott? Here he is, sharp as ever.
Now, imagine if he time-traveled to today, visited Carnaby Street, and found the Pretty Green shop. OH NO!
Now, if all these arguments fail to convince you that it's time to trade in your parka for an overcoat, well then, think of this: remember Sting's 'Ace Face' character in Quadrophenia? Y'know, the guy with bad hair who Jimmy had a total bro crush on? Yeah, not even that guy wore a parka:
Obviously, these opinions are all my own and probably in the minority.
For further info on parkas as a part of Mod history, please visit the following sites:
And, I'm happy to see I'm not the only one who thinks the parka has had its day. The ModCulture site was 10 years ahead with this opinion:
*The parka can also be used creatively as in the band name, The Merton Parkas, and in the name of one of my fave blogs, Parka Avenue.