We’ve hit that time of year when dusting off our winter essentials and layering up for the outdoors becomes a part of our daily routine. But not everything about these colder seasons is doom and gloom, and staying stylish in icier conditions is an easy feat if you have the right garment get-up — here is where Woolrich comes into play.
An undeniable winter staple that has cemented its place as a protective, functional and comfortable must-have all around the world is the parka. With its roots tied to the Arctic archipelagos off of Canada, the parka was born out of necessity and survival against the freezing, wet weather. From being worn by intrepid explorers to its uniform status as workwear attire, and now an essential in our modern-day wardrobes, the parka has weaved its way through all moments of outerwear. Not to mention its cultural milestones, from a staple in the mod-grunge movement in the '60s and indie in the '90s to its place in US street and hip hop culture in the '80s.
Woolrich’s parka history dates back to the '70s when it first invented its Arctic Parka. With a down filling, fur-lined hood, and a water-resistant exterior shell, the parka could withstand shocking temperatures of -20F. Since then the longstanding brand has revamped its parka pieces with higher collars, added pockets, more refined details, and varying lengths — all the while remaining high-performance and lightweight, and becoming one of the most recognizable pieces to date.
To celebrate Woolrich's Arctic Parka, which turns 50 next year, it's taken back to its birthing grounds, specifically the Alaskan outdoors, to highlight its thermal performance, wearability, and all-around protective functionality.
The Northwestern State is full of uncharted territory and unfamiliar to many who venture out there, so to get a better insight into the region, Woolrich enlisted the help of Alaskan-born creative, Gia Seo. Seo is a first-generation Korean-American born and raised in Bethel, Alaska, so she knows the area like the back of her hand. Along with her partner, Joshua Melendez, Seo revisits the vast snowscape of her home state, sharing old stories and memories, hiking through the snow, and finding peace in the natural beauty and quiet of the rural surroundings.
"My parents immigrated from Korea to the US. I grew up in an intimate community, rich in Native indigenous culture that was constantly married into my Korean heritage," explains Seo. As you can imagine, her experience of growing up in a small neighborhood in the vast plains of Alaska differs dramatically from her current urban lifestyle in NYC. "I miss everything about Alaska. The friendliness of the people, Yup’ik culture, snow-machining to the Bluffs, eating dried salmon sticks," she comments. To reconnect with nature, Seo finds herself returning home or traveling upstate from New York to spend time outdoors. "I grew up cross country skiing on the tundra behind my house. I still hear the Alaskan nature’s silence ringing in my ears if I get up early enough in the morning in New York. My childhood memories really overwhelm me with gratitude and longing for simpler days."
Seo, who like many, refers to Alaska as 'The Last Frontier', loves the states’ rugged and untamed wilderness. For nature enthusiasts, Alaska has an allure unlike any other. Even though it’s known for having almost 24 hours of daylight during the summertime, Alaska’s inhabitants are pros when it comes to combatting subzero temperatures. "We had heavy jackets pulled over multiple layers of thermal long johns, old graphic T-shirts, snow pants, and heavy boots. Mix and matched gloves and knitted hats came from grandmothers and we had heavy-duty furs, snow goggles, and down gloves for riding on snowmachines. For me though, my most prized possession was my arsenal of fast-drying wool socks." says Seo.
As a key element of her fit in Alaska, Seo gives us her thoughts on what makes the perfect parka. "The first thing I look for is fleece-lined pockets. My fingers are always first to go cold, and sometimes gloves aren’t enough," she says, which is why it’s no surprise that Woolrich’s Arctic Parka’s fleece-lined pockets are her favorite feature of the garment. "A heavy shell is important too, something that might snag but won’t tear, and although it doesn’t necessarily have to have a down filling, I do feel that these keep me the warmest without having to layer so much underneath. Lastly, I look for weight — I don’t like to have anything too heavy on me." For someone like Seo who gravitates towards items of quality and pieces with more unstructured silhouettes and detail, Woolrich’s Parka ticks all her sartorial boxes.
We’ve seen the parka re-invented over the past few years, from Raf Simons and Yeezy to Woolrich x Aimé Leon Dore’s collaboration, which has skyrocketed the winter essential's popularity and wearability. No longer just for exploration, the parka has found its place in urban life, reaching new consumers every season. But it’s true what they say, 'if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it', and you really can’t go wrong with a classic, to-the-point, protective parka like Woolrich’s.
Shop the Woolrich Arctic Parka here.