HISTORY OF THE PARKA
The parka has ancient roots in Canada. Originally made from caribou or seal, the parka was invented by the Caribou Inuit in the Canadian Arctic as a means of warmth and protection from wind and wetness while hunting and kayaking. Certain types of Inuit parkas were regularly coated with fish oil to maintain water resistance.
The traditional parka in Canada’s eastern Arctic is the amauti(also amaut or amautik, plural amautiit). The amauti is designed to carry a child against an adult’s body to utilize body heat and protect the child from frostbite, wind and cold. Traditionally the mother or female caregiver wears the amauti, but fathers or male caregivers may also wear the garment.
Traditionally, the amauti is made from a variety of materials including sealskin, caribou or - when extreme warmth is not required - duffle (a thick woolen cloth) with a windproof outer shell. For thousands of years, children have been held in the hood on the back of amautiit – a tradition that continues in the eastern Arctic communities of Nunavut and Nunavik today. The amauti is also seen in the Northwest Territories, Greenland, Labrador and Alaska.
In the south Baffin tradition, a male who wears an amauti is said to be more successful when hunting for certain species of animals in the following hunting season.
As clothing materials and production techniques evolved in the 1900s, the parka designs advanced rapidly. Manufacturers began to produce parkas that could be shipped easily to remote locations. Synthetic materials were created and utilized to protect against moisture, wind and cold. The Canadian military began to issue parkas to service people in northern climates. Helicopter pilots, scientists, and international film crews also began to adopt the parka as a necessary tool for survival while working in Canada.
As the parka became more widespread, style changes emerged and the amauti-styled pullover parka became nearly obsolete. As consumers adopted the parka en masse, an open front to the jacket became the norm. Demand increased and parka styles continued to diversify. While bush pilots in Canada’s north required bulky, heavy jackets with dedicated gun holster pockets, women in Toronto sought a lighter, more flattering fit. Manufacturers took notice.
Today parkas are available with a great degree of diversification in style and functionality. They range from light pieces worn in the dry, urban winter to parkas that protect the Canadian Rangers in Nunavut from extreme wet and cold.
Perhaps the best-known modern parkas are those made Canada Goose, a Canadian-owned company that has designed parkas for over fifty years. Canada Goose parkas are lauded as the warmest jackets on Earth by mountain climbers and Antarctic researchers who continue to trust Canada Goose to protect them from life-threatening temperatures that surround them.