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What are Parkas Made of?

A handsome brutal man wearing a parka and sunglasses in winter.

I have fond memories of my then-husband’s winter parka because he let me wear it. I was outdoors delivering food in the cold and snow, so I wore it more than he did. It was bright yellow and royal blue, and it was so warm, I didn’t have to wear a sweater. 

Most parkas are fur-lined. His wasn’t, but it was also goose-down, so body warmth was retained quite well. It came down to the hip, and when I had the hood on, even my toes were warm. So what are parkas made of that ordinary jackets aren’t?

Jackets Are Made From A Wide Variety Of Materials. What Makes Parkas So Special?

Close up photo of an animal fur used for parka jacket.

Yes, jackets in general are made of everything from cotton to the waxy raincoat to the wool of dress jackets and long coats. Jackets and coats have come to be interchangeable words used for that which covers the body in cold weather. 

Some jackets and coats are lined with fleece, Sherpa, or jersey. Dress coats and jackets are often lined with polyester, rayon, acetate, or silk.  Serious winter jackets are lined with quilted batting, wool, or thermal knit material. 

Okay, If A Parka Is A Jacket, Too, How Does It Differ?

Parkas were designed for the most frigid of Arctic temperatures. They originated in Siberia, and I think we can all agree there are some pretty freezing temperatures. Parkas were made waterproof as protection against the elements and were originally made of animal skins and lined with animal fur, largely caribou.

Related: What’s The Difference Between a Parka and a Jacket?

That’s Cool. What Are Today’s Parka Materials?

Today’s jackets, including parkas,  are made of synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester blends, or wool that have been treated with waterproof coatings. Some parkas are lined with fleece or wool while others are stuffed with goose down. 

Is There A Difference Between Men’s And Women’s Parkas?

Women's winter parka jacket with fur isolated on a white background.

Yes. Men’s parkas follow the Army fashion of the 1960s when the U. S. Army adopted the parka for soldiers working in bitterly cold climes. Today’s parka has a detachable hood, gathered ribbed cuffs, and cord-controlled hems. The parka is lined with modern PrimaLoft insulation and comes in your basic military colors.

Parkas for the ladies come in the dipped hem or straight hip cuts. The coat is lined with PrimaLoft insulation and offers adjustable cords at the hood and waist, as well as gathered ribbed cuffs.

Of course, all parkas offer wearers as many pockets as possible with which to keep the hands warm: chest pockets, waist pockets, and pockets down towards the hem. The coats both zip and snap shut.

Which Would You Suggest For Winter: A Jacket, Coat, Or Parka?

Wearing a parka profile

The answer to that question depends on two things: the rain and snow in your neck of the woods, and how you wear your clothing to make a fashion statement. 

You’ll Be Taking The Weather Into Consideration

Some parts of the country are rainy pretty much all year round, while other locales get a bit of snow. Other parts of the country get bone-chilling cold temperatures and feet of snow. You’ll need the utmost in insulation and water-proof materials in your coat, jacket, or parka. Your best bet for these types of weather problems is the parka.

Related: Are Parkas Good for Winter?

Buying With An Eye Toward A Fashion Statement

When the Army took up parkas for the soldiers’ protection, they started a fashion trend that traveled from everyday winter wear to Wall Street. Men began wearing parkas while driving their scooters and motorcycles to work. Skiers and other winter sports-seeking people choose parkas as their coat of choice.

Hikers wore them, mountain climbers wore them, and ice skaters wore them.

Parkas do double-duty as well-insulated protection and good-looking, fashionable winter wear. Not many garments can go from the mountains to the boardroom, but parkas do.

What Are Parkas Made Of FAQs

Lots of white goose down feathers hold in both hands.

What Is A Parka?

A parka is a fur-lined, hooded garment made for arctic temperatures. Usually waterproof, the parka also comes with other insulating materials such as fleece or modern insulating textiles.

What Makes The Best Parka?

Since dryness and warmth are the preeminent reasons parkas are worn, they tend to be heavy. Mobility isn’t a big deal for parka wearers. Down is most commonly used as insulation and will last for many years.

Why Are They Called Parkas?

The word originated with the Aleutian Islands’ Inuit peoples when the coat was made from animal skin, which could mean anything from seal skin to deer skin to caribou. Also called an anorak, they’re two different garments. The anorak is a thinner, hooded pullover jacket.

Why Do Parka Hoods Have Fur?

A young woman in green parka leaning against huge old tree isolated on blurred background of green exotic forest.

The fur makes a boundary between the air and the face which retains more heat. Back in the day (as well as now to some extent,) parkas had fur sticking out of the hood in a sun-ray or ruff manner. Since the majority of body heat escapes through the head, the ruff of varying lengths of animal fur creates a calming area around the face.

Most of us don’t live in the Arctic cold, but the gale-force wind still hits us square in the face. A ruff of animal or fake fur on a parka hood creates a suction of the wind away from the face, so frost-bite isn’t a problem.

What Is A Parka Class Five?

People who live and/or work in the Arctic cold need extra protection. The Class Five parka is a hooded garment of animal skin with the fur on the inside. It was originally a pull-over garment, but today’s fashion means a front closure.

Why Is Animal Fur Waterproof?

The animal’s body produces keratin, a protein that is waterproof and covers the outer hair. Hair is an excellent insulator. Animals from pre-historical times didn’t have a lot of, if any, hair. Some animals make more keratin than others, so they have more hair, as is seen in the Arctic foxes, bears, and caribou.

If The Fur Ruff Gets Wet In The Rain Or Snow, How Do You Dry It?

Young woman close up portrait at winter nature background, wearing parka jacket, fur hat and bright leather gloves.

Shake the fur to remove as much moisture as possible. Hang the garment to dry in a room that’s well-ventilated. When it’s dry, shake the garment again to fluff up the fur. Do. Not. Use. a blow dryer or clothes dryer on the fur.

How Should A Parka Fit?

The idea is to keep warm, so most parkas are loose with an A-line shape. The insulation often makes the garment heavy, so going with a slim or tight cut won’t do the job. 

What Is A Down Parka?

Down are the soft feathers of ducks and geese. They’re generally Arctic Canadian fowl, so the down keeps them warm until they migrate south. It’s that down that locks in body heat which makes good insulation in parkas.

What Is A Snorkel Parka?

This type of parka was designed for military pilots that had to fly over the Arctic or equally cold areas. Since it’s cold up there, the pilots needed something that would keep them warm up to -51 degrees Celsius or – 59 degrees Fahrenheit. The original garment was made of DuPont flight silk nylon and lined with wool blanket textile. Later on, the lining was upgraded to polyester.

Canada Goose Outer wear