Monday, 17 October 2011

“Scooter, Suit, Haircut, Parka…

“Scooter, Suit, Haircut, Parka…

The Visual Mod Stereotype.”

There a 2 types of 'Mod' Parkas. The M-51 & the M-65. The 'M' standing for Military and the number the year it came into issue. Both had a 'Fishtail' which was designed to "be tied around the upper legs...for added wind proofing as they are not, as some think, waterproof (1)". Both have a liner but the main difference between the two is that the M-65 has a removable hood and the M-51 an attached.

The US Parka - A little bit of history.

The Godfather of the all Parkas Is the M-48. A sturdy no nonsense piece of Military Kit hard to find, and highly collectable due to the limited numbers that were made. When the Korean War started there was a need for a similar coat that could be used in combat but was much cheaper to mass produce than the M-48 hence, the birth of the M-51.

The first ones were made of the much heavier cotton as used in the M-48's but this proved both costly and impractical due to the drying time once they got wet. This is the reason why we ended up with shinier 'Sateen' material.

Made in the US up to 1956 and in Germany up to 1958 there was a second run "around 1963 for UK & Canadian specification (1)". No more M-51's were made which takes us up to 1965 with the M-65 Parka – now a cheaper alternative to the highly prized M-51.

Why the US Fishtail Parka?

Most countries have their own versions but it was the US versions which made it onto every self respecting Mods back.

Firstly, it was cheap and widely available. For the same reasons Mods could often get hold of Levis maybe the American G.I's populating the Soho Jazz clubs were pawning their Army issued clothing for Bourbon money.

Secondly, and more importantly, were the dimensions and construction. They had both a liner and a shell so were suitable for both summer and winter wear but they were also fantastically roomy as they were made to fit over uniform. Many other Parkas seemingly aren't designed to get much under them. As a result you could get in one with your suit on and with it being longer than a German Parka, for example, there was much less chance of getting your sharp attire marked by an overflowing London pothole.

The Parka Today

The function of the Parka for todays Mod is different. It is very much emblematic than actually role playing - It is a want rather than a need. Where the 60s mod needed to keep their clothes neat and dry todays needs to show he is ‘in the club’ – it’s very much part of the Uniform.

Of course it still kind of fulfills a role for the Scooterist but chances are that underneath the Parka is a pair of 501’s and Fred Perry Polo – the big, baggy cover all coat again is to meet criteria. Further more it’s ironic that the initial attraction was the availability and the price. Kids getting into the scene who want the ‘uniform’ usually have to make do with a high-street imitation.

Still, this doesn’t detract from the fact that people still want, what is effectively, army surplus. And the rising price of these fast disappearing relics only makes them more desirable.

Urban village stock M-51 & M-65 Parkas - prices dependant of condition but as a rule of thumb £100 for the M-65 & £150 upwards for the M-51..


(1) - Wikipedia

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