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Snorkel Parka

The original snorkel parka (USAF N-3B parka) was developed in the United States during the early 1950s for military use, mainly for flight crews stationed in extremely cold areas.

Originally made with a sage green DuPont flight silk nylon outer and lining it was padded with a wool blanket type material until the mid-1970s when the padding was changed to polyester wadding making the jacket both lighter and warmer. The outer shell material also was changed to a sage green cotton-nylon blend.

It gained the common name of “snorkel parka” because the hood could be zipped right up leaving only a small tunnel (or snorkel) for the wearer to look out of. This was particularly effective in very cold, windy weather although it had the added liabilities of seriously limiting the field of vision and hearing.

Launched commercially in 1973, the snorkel parka rocked the fashion world (ahem). The civilian version of the parka was made in many colours – navy blue, green, brown, black, maroon, grey, royal blue, sky blue, red and bright orange.

Most had an orange diamond quilted nylon lining, although a very small number did have alternative coloured linings such as yellow, pale blue, and green.

The quilted lining sealed in your sweat, the rabbit fur smelled funny and the press studs went rusty. The parka may have since been consigned to the Oxfam shop of history, but the smell lingers on!