Notes on the Parka: The Outerwear That Started It All

Style writer Nick Grant's love for parkas began when he was a young kid shooting hoops in a Starter jacket
December 14, 2018Words by Nick GrantPhotos by R.J. Rabe

When I was growing up, it was either the Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets or Orlando Magic. Sure, other teams’ parkas would get a head nod or look of medial satisfaction. Hell, even my hometown team, the then Washington Bullets, could only conjure up an “OK, I see you” at best. But these three teams? They were symbolic. They were beacons, sending out loud pings to others indicating that you’ve made the come-up. When you got home, you didn’t just toss it on the floor like a heathen along with the rest of your childhood belongings. No. You gave it a once or twice over to make sure there were no stains that needed to be cleansed and neatly placed it in the front of the closet, not allowing any of the other plebeian outerwear to even think about grazing it. 

"That parka was my superhero cape. I remember getting the Bulls one on Christmas when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old."

That parka was my superhero cape. I remember getting the Bulls one on Christmas when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. I immediately ripped off the tags, even though it fit a little big on me (going exactly as planned for my parents), tossed it on and made my dad come outside with me in frigid temps, just to rebound for me as I put up some shots. I must’ve been out there for 30, maybe 45 minutes just letting shots fly with a resounding confidence that I had no business having in that weather. Back then, that NBA-adorned parka was the only one I would be caught dead leaving the house in unless I was going to church or somewhere it very well could end up on someone else’s back, much to my chagrin. I protected it because that thing was my ticket to something greater—even if it was just playground stardom. 

"I don’t discriminate like I used to when it comes to parkas—nowadays I’m like the Bubba Gump of parkas."

Nowadays, I let the parka do all the protecting. To my body and to my fragile ego. I don’t discriminate like I used to when it comes to parkas—nowadays I’m like the Bubba Gump of parkas. I like my fishtail parkas, my cagoules, my down parkas, my snorkels—they're some of the most versatile outerwear around. Parkas, in and of themselves, are eye-catchers first and foremost. Well, I mean, I guess they’re functional, weather-ready outerwear, first and foremost, but for my own materialistic purposes: eye-catchers. They generally tend to stand out more due to their added length and bulkiness, more or less, which I welcome as it gives me an opportunity to get lost in my layering-riddled imagination. 

But this pleasure is often met with anguish and anxiety because not only am I riddled with decisions on which style to choose but I also have to choose my material and color. I have enough decisions I have to make throughout my godforsaken day that I am not allowed these little moments to bask in the glory of choosing the only right parka? Yes, an olive drab M-51 fishtail parka in olive with button-in liner seems like the right choice, but what about the black one? See what I mean? How about that down parka? Should I go with the 60/40 nylon and cotton shell with the duck down insulation, or the cotton duck with Primaloft filling? Listen folks, I’m not trying to put all of this trepidation on you, but these are the types of tough decisions that keep me up at night.  

Then I realize that there are very few wrong decisions as long as you’re headed in the right direction, which luckily doesn’t involve any particular NBA logo anymore. But I will never forget the role that particular parka played in my childhood. Sure there were many other items I could—and probably did—gravitate to that had similar significance, but the parka—that parka—was an awakening of something that my obsessive compulsive nature would hold onto like a security blanket—for better or for worse.



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Nick Grant is certified Rad Dad and a style writer for outlets like Complex, Well-Spent, and GQ.


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