Hidden History: The Anorak Jacket

When the weather outside comes in like a Lion, many people reach for their trusty anorak to keep warm and dry.  This simple, reliable wardrobe staple has somehow managed to hold on as a fashionable icon, while other styles come and go.  Ever wonder where this functional favorite comes from?  We’ve got all the details in the first of our Hidden History series as we explore the history behind some of our favorite apparel and promotional products.

First, let’s define what an anorak actually is.  At times the words parka and anorak are used interchangeably but where the parka is all about warmth, the anorak is about keeping you dry.  It is a special type of coat with a hood, perhaps lined with fur or faux fur. This jacket is best represented as a waterproof pull-over without a front opening, and sometimes drawstrings at the waist and cuffs.

According to Wikipedia, the Caribou Inuit invented this kind of garment.  Its initial construction featured caribou or seal skin, for hunting and kayaking in the frigid Arctic. Some Inuit anoraks require regular coating with fish oil to retain their water resistance.  More modern adaptations will use polyester or treated fabrics to achieve a similar water resistance.

The modern anorak is also descended from an English “cagoule.” This is the British English term for a lightweight (usually without lining), weatherproof raincoat with a hood.  It may come in a knee-length as well.  In some original British versions, when rolled up, the hood or cross-chest front pocket doubles as a bag into which the shell can be packed.  Which is excellent when coming in from the wet – pack it up and keep the rain off the other coats in the closet. This convenient packable cagoule was patented by former Royal Marine Noel Bibby and launched in the UK under the brand name Peter Storm in the early 1960s.

We all know that fashion trends come and go but classic, functional design that stands the test of time makes the anorak one for the history books.   Curious what’s next?  Check out our previous blog on men’s fashion trends and make sure you’re on our email list for a March 2020 special on the anorak.

Stay warm, stay dry!

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