Parkas are a winter staple, particularly if you live in a colder area. When temperatures start sinking, a parka goes from a luxury item to a necessity. They are functional and stylish, giving you the best of both worlds.
However, they can also be very expensive, with some costing well over $1,000. What makes them so expensive? Are they worth the price? Are there cheaper alternatives?
What is a Parka?
First, it’s important to know what a parka is. The first parkas originated from the Inuits in the Arctic. They were made from caribou or sealskin, and lined with fur.
Parkas had, and continue to have a few important features. They were loose-fitting enough to allow movement, which was important when carrying out tasks like hunting or preparing food.
They have a hood lined with fur, or faux fur in many cases today, to protect the hood and provide warmth.
They are longer than most coats, typically hitting about mid-thigh or around the knees. Today, they can be found in several lengths, but they always cover the waist to trap heat.
Lastly, they often feature drawstrings. These may be around the hood, the waist, and the sleeves. These drawstrings allow the wearer to seal the coat to keep warm air inside, without being too small and restricting movement.
Why Parkas are So Expensive
Now that we know what a parka is, let’s take a look at why they are so expensive. There are actually several reasons for their cost.
When you think of clothing manufacturing, you probably assume that they are made using unskilled labor. In most cases, this is correct. If you pick up a t-shirt or pair of blue jeans, chances are it was created through an assembly line process that requires little skill to master.
When it comes to parkas, this isn’t the case. Everything, from designing the parka to the actual manufacturing process, takes a surprising amount of skill.
Taped seams are one example. A quality parka will have taped seams to prevent heat loss, and to keep moisture from getting in. This involves gluing a backing strip under every seam of the jacket. The tape must be heat pressed onto the seam, with very little margin for error.
Materials is one of the biggest costs of manufacturing a parka. Many parkas are made from goose down. Canada Goose, for example, sources its down from Canadian Hutterite geese. Their down is considered one of the finest in the world.
Of course, the finest down in the world is going to cost significantly more than other types. The down found in any parka is also fairly expensive.
Jackets made from synthetic fill may be less expensive than those made with goose down. However, if they perform as well as goose down, you can expect the manufacturer to charge a similar price.
The fill isn’t the only costly material.
Parkas are waterproof, and should be breathable as well. This starts with using high quality material. Then, a membrane is added to the back of the shell. Lastly, a special finish is applied to the outside of the fabric.
These features allow the water to bead up and roll away, instead of soaking into the parka.
The material used to make an inexpensive jacket may cost $1.50 per yard, while the material used for high end parkas runs about $12.00 per yard. This makes the parka material 8 times more expensive than that of cheaper outerwear.
Limited supply also raises the price. Companies who produce high-end parkas use high-end materials. By nature, the supply of these is limited. Ironically, this limited supply can increase demand.
Limited materials seem exclusive, which creates more desire for them. Everyone wants things that are difficult to acquire.
Diamonds are a perfect example of this. The supply is intentionally limited, to keep the prices and demand for them high. When it comes to parkas, the materials are simply expensive or time-consuming to produce.
Some materials are also controversial. For example, Canada Goose uses animal fur for the lining of their coats. They’ve made a commitment to transition to eliminating animal fur, and replacing it with humane materials. Still, the controversy about materials like animal fur can contribute to the high prices.
Branding also factors in to the price of a parka. The truth is, you are paying for the name as well as quality in many cases. Well known brands, particularly those marketed as luxury brands, can charge more money for their products.
The brand name carries prestige, which makes it more desirable than other brands. They are also synonymous with quality. Consumers are willing to pay more for a product they see as being high-quality. When a brand does well, this quality is implicit.
Brands like Moncler and Canada Goose are well known for creating parkas of premium quality, along with a premium price tag. Other brands, including Patagonia and North Face, are also synonymous with quality. However, they don’t have the same perception of luxury.
Sustainability is another factor that affects the price of a parka. In a perfect world, sustainability would be no more expensive, or even less costly, than other methods of production.
Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works. Sustainable fabrics are 2 to 4 times more expensive than traditional materials. Since they are more expensive to produce, companies need to charge more to maximize profits.
Patagonia and North Face are at the forefront of the outdoor clothing sustainability movement. Icebreaker and Team Timbuktu are up and coming sustainable brands.
There’s another reason why sustainable parkas are expensive. Consumers are willing to pay more for sustainability. Which brings us to our last reason parkas are so expensive.
The bottom line is, companies will charge what consumers are willing to pay. Every company or industry has a baseline. This is the amount of profit that makes it worth it for them to do business or create products.
Of course, the aim of any business is to surpass this margin as much as possible. This means that a company will charge what consumers are willing to pay.
Can a $100 parka be just as warm and stylish as a $1,000 one? Perhaps. However, if the $1,000 parka is selling well, the company has no incentive to lower their price.
Finding the Right Parka
If you want a parka for winter, you have many options. How do you decide which parka meets your needs? There are a few things you should consider.
Fill Type and Power
Generally, goose or down will provide more warmth and be lighter than synthetic materials. However, synthetic materials are more water resistant.
The fill power is an indication of how warm the parka is. Most high-end parkas have a fill rating of 600-700. You’ll want a fill rating of at least 500 to keep you warm in low temperatures.
However, lighter fill ratings can have their place as well. They are lighter, which can be beneficial if you are very active.
Whether you need a waterproof parka depends on how you intend to use it. Most parkas are either water resistant or waterproof, but not all are. Parkas that aren’t water-proof can be more breathable, and less expensive.
However, if you are planning to spend lots of time outside in rain or snow, you’ll need a waterproof parka. If you want a warm coat for your work commute, a water-resistant parka will work well. They will offer some protection from precipitation.
Related: Are Parkas Good For the Rain?
Parkas often offer other features that you may find useful. All parkas come with a hood, but some have the option to remove the hood. Some have drawstrings, and fur or faux fur lining the hood. This can give you extra protection from the cold.
Pockets are also an important consideration. High-end brands put a lot of thought into details, including pockets and zippers. Some pockets have zippers, and some even include storm flaps to further minimize heat loss.
Technical Vs. Casual Parkas
The last consideration should be whether you need a technical or casual parka. Technical parkas are created for athletic activities, like hiking or skiing. Casual parkas, on the other hand, are designed for warmth and style. They typically restrict movement more than technical parkas.
Why are Parkas So Expensive FAQs
What’s the difference between a puffer and a parka?
Both coats are designed for winter activities, but there are some differences. Parkas are longer and typically heavier and thicker. Parkas have a hood. Puffer jackets may include a detachable hood or no hood at all. They typically have a higher collar than a parka.
What is the warmest coat?
The warmest, and surprisingly, the lightest, coat in the world is Kistler Aerogel Jacket. It uses aerogel, which is also used by Nasa to insulate spacesuits. The jacket will keep you warm in -300 degree weather.
What materials are used to provide insulation in parkas?
The fill used in parkas can be synthetic, or goose or duck down. They are rated using fill power. The higher the fill power, the more warmth the parka will provide.