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60 Second Guide - The Parka Jacket


The parka jacket is both a subculture classic and a winter wardrobe staple. It first appeared on British shores when the Mods reclaimed them from army surplus stores in the 1950s – but the origins of the jacket can be traced back much further.

The first parka came from Canada. Invented by the native Caribou Inuit, it was originally crafted from the oiled skins of seal or reindeer. The hood of the jacket – one of its key features – helped to protect the wearer’s face from the freezing winter winds and sub-zero temperatures.

Later, the basic parka jacket style was adopted by the American Military, who used it to combat the freezing weather conditions faced by the US army in the Korean War of 1951. Taking reference from the Inuits’ version, it evolved into the more familiar fishtail parka, which is the shape that modern day variations are still based on.

There were four main styles of fishtail parka; the EX-48, M-48, M-51 and the M-65 (the M standing for military). The EX-48 and M-48 jackets were of extremely high quality and their high cost meant that they were only in production for about a year.

The M-51 is the classic fishtail parka jacket, and the shape that still inspires most versions today. It’s an iconic piece of outerwear, and key features that still appear on modern interpretations include a detachable lining, a fur-trim detachable hood and a long ‘fishtail at the back – hence the name.

Nobody knows exactly why this technical military jacket became adopted by the British Mod movement in the late 1950s and early 60s, but there are many theories. The most likely seems to be that the jacket was actually very practical for riding scooters. Available at a cheap price from army surplus stores, the M-51 parka jacket was an exceptionally high-quality jacket, designed to brave the elements. 

Another major appeal in the M-51 Parka was that they were worn by nobody else. Image was integral to the Mod movement, and wearing something entirely different from the crowd held strong appeal.

The jackets quickly became customised – Union Jack flags, scooter-club patches and badges, music references and RAF targets were pinned, stitched and ironed on. Stamping a very British element to a military piece evolved the parka into a subculture staple.

The jacket is an iconic piece of Mod uniform, gaining notoriety after the news reports of the infamous seaside riots of 1964, and then later appearing on the cover of The Who’s defining ‘Quadrophenia’ album and the classic British film of the same name.


Image above - still from "Quadrophenia"

The parka remains a winter wardrobe staple to this day and remains a key shape throughout our own jacket collection this season. 

Thanks to Alain Bibal

Mods - The New Religion by Paul 'Smiler' Anderson

Mods Jacket 

Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the famous ‘Mods Vs Rockers’ riots of 1964; Mods: The New Religion is everything you need to know about the real Mod scene. We chatted to the book's creator, Paul 'Smiler' Anderson, about music, style and what's up next.

When did you begin working on The New Religion? What inspired you to create the book?

I first thought about writing a book back in 2002. I did some research on bands local to me in Reading like The Moquettes and did newspaper appeals for Mods. I then decided to write a book on 60s original Mods and started that back in 2005. But ideas, changes and photos were still coming in right up until the end of December 2013, just before it had to be sent to be printed. The book now though is exactly as I imagined it...twelve years ago! The inspiration to me was the fact that the only book really dedicated to 60s Mods was written in 1979 by Richard Barnes with the help of Johnny Moke (original Mod) and nothing had really been released since. In 1964 there had been a book called 'Generation X' written by Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson that was a cross the board social study of opinions and quotes from young teenagers talking about their views on Marriage, sex, religion, politics, class etc. It included some great quotes from Mods of the period. Another book that was influential was from 1984 called 'Days In The Life' which was a collection of interviews conducted by Jonathan Green with various people from subcultures of the 60s including Mods, Hippies etc. I just thought all I want is a book that just chats to Mods including the ones who were there at the very start in the late 1950s.

How many of your own personal experiences play into the book?

Seeing as I wasn't born until 1965 it was impossible for any of my own personal experiences to be included in the book. However the fact that I have spent over 30 years reading and talking about the original 60s period does reflect in the book I think. I have nothing but admiration for the originators of the culture and I hope that passion shows through.

In your opinion, which three tracks define the Mod era:

That is a tough call! But I think I would choose:

'Ain't Love Good, Ain't Love Proud' - Tony Clarke

'Madness' - Prince Buster

'I'll Keep Holding On' - The Marvelettes

But then I could easily have put in a blues record like 'My Babe' by Little Walter or 'I'm The Face' by the High Numbers as it was the first record to be actually written and aimed at the Mod audience.

What part did the Fred Perry Shirt play in the history of Mod?

Fred Perry was really some of the first 'leisure wear' that teenagers embraced as a fashion. In a world that is now full of tacky tracksuits and sportswear is a common sight it seems hard to believe that Mods were the first to embrace the Fred Perry Shirt to be worn casually, although they could also be worn under jackets also. Mods were the first to wear training shoes, cycling shoes, bowling shoes and cycle shirts as a form of fashion statement but the Fred Perry shirt worn at the start of the 60s was seen as ground breaking.

Who would you describe as today’s Mod heroes? Are there any new faces you think are important?

The whole idea of heroes to Mods is a kind of alien concept as many would not want to be seen to acknowledge any individual publicly.  That said, many Mods do hold people in high esteem. Steve Marriott of The Small Faces is often cited as an inspiration to many whilst since the revival Paul Weller has often been held in high esteem and in more recent years people such as Miles Kane and Bradley Wiggins have become high profile Mods. It is such a personal view though and very hard to get any one person as an overall Mod hero.

Finally, what’s next for you? Are you working on any future projects?

Life is harder now I have my little boy and also holding down a full time job so my time for writing has definitely got shorter. Mod is my most passionate subject so I always feel that would come into anything I write. I am also fascinated by the subject of the 1984 miner's strike so may use that as a basis for a fictional piece. I'd also love to write for music based magazines such as Mojo but find many of these type of affairs hard to gain a foothold in. Whatever happens I think I will always be inspired to write.

'Mods - The New Religion' is published by Omnibus Press. Available now.

About the author:

PAUL ‘SMILER’ ANDERSON has been in love with the Mod way of life since 1979. He has been involved in organising numerous events since the Eighties, as well as publishing fanzines and running club nights. As a major record collector, Paul has been a  DJ at Mod events both in the UK and Europe for over 25 years. With co-author Damian Jones, Paul has also written Circles: The Strange Story of The Fleur De Lys and compiled Acid Jazz’s Rare Mod compilation albums and EPs. In 2011, Paul and Damian presented the biggest-ever exhibition devoted to Sixties Mod,  entitled Reading Steady Go! Other than his family and friends, Paul lists his greatest loves as clothes, records, scooters and West Ham United Football Club.

Paddy Smith's Patches

We spoke to Paddy Smith, the man behind the specially designed patches featured in our Spring 2014 Margate on the Run collection. After purchasing his first scooter in 1967, Paddy became a regular fixture at rallys during the 80s and 90s, selling his self-designed and produced patches from of the back of his car before a love for travelling by scooter took him into the local pubs and campsites. Paddy's patches gained cult following and are now synonymous with the scootering scene, added to shirts and parkas as a momento of each rally or ride-out.

Fred Perry: How did you originally become involved with scooter rallies and the scootering scene?

Paddy Smith: Although I was a mod and rode a scooter for a brief period as a teenager in the sixties it wasn’t until 1981 that I became involved again following the mod revival of 1979. It was after my brother in law had been to the rally in Scarborough the previous year that I went to Skegness in '81 with 15 t-shirts printed with a simple logo and ‘Skegness Scooter Rally’.

FP: How long have you been creating Paddy Smith patches?

PS: The first patch was a one colour print featuring a silhouette of my brother in law’s Lambretta LI 150, which I printed for the Yarmouth rally three weeks after Skegness. My wife, Annie, and I went to all of the rallies after that and the designs became gradually more complex.

 Archive Jacket Paddy Smith

FP: Why do you think your patches became so popular amongst scooterists?

PS: Scooter clubs were springing up all over the country in the eighties, as a generation who the Sex Pistols observed had ’no future’ lived if not for the present, at least for the weekend. Old Lambrettas and Vespas were not only cheap and stylish – they took you to places away from the boring town you grew up in.

It was never a fashion thing, most people fitted the mould of mod or scooterboy but as the scene developed it attracted skinheads, psychobillies, rude boys and even a few hippies! It was about scooters, being different and getting away. That’s why the cult of scooter boy or scooterist, whatever you want to call it, was not a London based scene.

When the sartorially diverse youths arrived at a seaside town nobody cared much about what you were wearing, but they were interested in your scooter or the tales you had to tell of your adventures on the journey. Travelling hundreds of miles on old bikes designed for shopping or commuting created challenges as did the animosity of ‘grebos’ and ‘casuals’ along the way so everyone had a story to tell.

Scooter clubs had their own patches and people would swop them on rallies so your jacket became a record of your affiliations. When rally patches became available jackets became historical documents that displayed how far and how often you had travelled.

 Badge 1

FP: How did the popularity of your patches spread?

PS: The scene grew rapidly in 1982 and there were a few people doing the same as us – walking around the pubs and the sea front selling rally patches. I think even then mine probably outsold the others on the strength of their design but it was in 1983 that mine became regarded as the ‘official’ patch. No official body ever endorsed them but for that year I adopted a new format which was 4” square as opposed to the 6” which was generally accepted and continued to be popular with the Parka wearing mods. Because there were nine national rallies a year now anybody who bought all nine patches found that they could sew them onto the back of a Levi denim or MA1 flight jacket and they fitted nicely into a square.

Because I had ridden to all the rallies in 1982 on my Vespa P200E I had become acutely aware of why people were proud of their patches and regarded them like campaign medals. Other patch sellers were unloading any surplus left after a rally either on subsequent rallies or in Carnaby Street which was causing resentment amongst the rally going ‘troops’ who saw people wearing patches for rallies they had never been to. I made the promise that my patches would only be available on the rally they were made for and any surplus would be burnt the following November 5th. Because a parts dealer had one of my patches copied that year every subsequent patch carried a copyright and my signature.

Alongside the rally scene there was a growing custom scene expanding and hardly anyone rode a completely standard bike so I started featuring interesting looking scooters that I photographed on the rallies.

So that was what made them popular: they were the best designed, they were only available on the rally, they featured a scooter from the fast growing custom scene, they fitted nicely on the arm or the back of your jacket and the bloke who made them was ‘one of us’.

FP: Do you have a most memorable rally or ride-out that will always stick in your mind?

PS: There are too many to choose just one but generally my best memories are of the rallies I rode to in the eighties and the European ones we had a stall at in the nineties.

 Scooter Rally Patch 2

FP: Can you talk us through the process of creating each patch?

PS: The scooter is always the star. My background is in fine art, not graphics so what I’m doing is making little pictures. When I was doing them to sell on the rallies in Britain I would search out a new interesting looking scooter and photograph it at one rally to feature on a patch later that year. For the patches I print now for rallies organised by clubs across Europe and Australia I work from photographs they send me. I start with a line drawing for the black and make separate drawings for the colours. The colours and style of the scooter dictate the background which might reference the name of the scooter or the rally or may simply reflect the lines of the scooter in some way.

FP: Do you have a favourite design?

PS: Once again there are too many to choose from but I believe the period from 89 to 92 was my most creative in terms of patch design. This came about for two reasons: firstly it was a period when the custom scene was producing increasingly outstanding scooters and secondly because I had become so well established that I was confident to introduce some fairly obscure decorative influences and motifs.

FP: What were the ideas behind the patches created for Fred Perry?

PS: The collection was to centre around the seaside town of Margate where there had been clashes between the mods and rockers in the sixties and they were looking to make cultural links with the later rallies. I am very conscious of the signs and symbols associated with the mod scene even though I normally choose to avoid them. As the collection is aimed at a mass market I kept the references simple using targets and checkerboards along with some musical references and some landmarks from the town. Style- wise I used blocks of colour with black outlines to give them a sixties Pop Art feel.

FP: What are you working on at the moment?

PS: I live in France now and divide my time between running a contemporary art gallery, my fine art practice, designing and printing rally patches for scooter clubs worldwide and selling my range of scooter related t shirts from my website.

At the moment I am working on a series of prints entitled ‘ It’s only Rock n Roll’ and have an interesting collaboration coming up with the American artist Alan Sanchez. I’m organizing the fourth Paddy Smith’s Sun Run for this June and I’ve just posted some patches to Germany for ‘Scooterist Meltdown’ (a weekend of mayhem in a disused nuclear power station). I’ve got some more patches to design and print for rallies in Britain and for a charity ride out organized by the Norwich Scooter Collective. I insist on complete artistic control when doing the rally patches and am still enjoying playing around with the format I invented. I also still manage to go to a couple of rallies over here every year with my son Sam on our Vespa T5s. It’s in the blood!

See the Spring 2014 men's and women's Margate collections online and in our Authentic shops now. Find out more about Paddy Smith's work here: