I ride a GS scooter with my hair cut neat. Wear my wartime coat in the wind and sleet,” sang Roger Daltrey in The Who’s 1973 hit I’ve Had Enough, a track that later appeared in the band’s mod opera Quadrophenia. By wartime coat, Daltrey was referring to an item of army surplus kit: the US Army M1951 fishtail parka with a drawstring waist and hood that was adopted by the early-1960s mod movement, being ideal for keeping both warm and dry(ish) while riding scooters and protecting their precious Italian-style mohair tailoring. While websites dedicated to M1951s now see mint-condition examples, complete with fur trim and silk lining, change hands for in excess of £500, new takes on the classic are fuelling a cool summer trend.
Some, like Margaret Howell’s olive and navy Ventile parkas (£875), with flank pockets (just where the drawstring toggles cinch in) and steel zips and poppers, are faithful in design to the original M1951, but I’m particularly taken by the fresh interpretations – from those in futuristic super-light fabrics to military-inspired formal cuts.
Christopher Raeburn’s collections are always military in feel, and experimentations with parkas in his Remade collection include a lime ultra-lightweight mac version (£395) in Korean cotton. Japanese mills are now making really top-notch nylons – to rival their mastery of denim – which are helping give parkas a new edge. Take, for example, Nudie Jeans’s Elliot parka in muted camouflage (£270), or special forces-style black Japanese nylon (£230), which has a matte, waxy quality.
Other über-light fabrics include parachute-like materials, which evoke 1980s-era Katharine Hamnett tops. Joseph’s midnight-blue or optic-white drawstring Camden parkas (£595) come in almost papery cotton-poplins, giving a new-age feel to the mod look. Brioni’s extraordinary high-tech nylon parkas (£1,820) in aqua, jade or grey (some with dashes of orange), with asymmetric panels and brushstroke-like markings, have a diaphanous membrane quality, while Z Zegna’s pale-grey kite parka (£515) in performance nylon has a sports feel.
At E Tautz the navy or cherry summer parka (£995) comes in Loro Piana’s Rain System fabric, a high-tech wool/nylon mix that drapes beautifully, cinches in at the back to accentuate the fishtail and has a great swing to it. The poppers, zip, buttons and drawstring toggles are all in futuristic-looking polished steel. This is a really special remodelling of the original parka.
While E Tautz keeps most of the original features, some designers have pared back or tweaked the format. Take Corneliani, which has an extra-long, muted-cornflower cotton/nylon trench (£2,300) with no hood; or rejuvenated brand Pal Zileri, which has a luxury parka (£846) in graphic maroon jacquard nylon.
Further takes on parkas mix in elements from other classic outerwear, such as Berluti’s navy cotton/linen parka (£3,100), which borrows from sports jackets with nubuck button stands and pocket trims and a lining with taped seams, and from trenches with a storm yolk on the back. Even Sting’s character from Quadrophenia, Ace Face, might have been tempted to give up his black leather trench for that.