Fishtail Parkas's Posts (2)

Article©: The Fishtail Parka, from war coat to fashion icon...
Copyright 2006 fishtailparkas.com

The fishtail parka started life in service to the US army in 1951 to help the American soldiers cope with the freezing conditions in the Korean War.

It was known as the M1951 parka and those wanting the full history on this please see Article©: M1951 Fishtail Parka, history of the vintage M51 parka.

However, in 1960’s Britain the Fishtail Parka took on a whole new life and came to represent an entire era, a lifestyle and a statement of intent.

You were a Mod !!


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By 1963 the mods were here, they had their own style, their own dress codes, their own transport and indeed their own language.

In a fashion culture that changed on a weekly basis forcing mods to work overtime to keep up with the changes, everything from colour to length of jacket side vents, to width of trouser bottoms and style of shoes only one item of clothing managed to stay a constant throughout the life of Mod.

This was the Fishtail Parka (US Army only).

The truth is that exactly how this came about no one really knows, it’s as much a mystery and it is a phenomena. The influencing factors can readily be drawn, fishtail parkas were cheap, warm, relatively water proof and great for riding scooters in a pre-helmet era as one could tie the fur hood right up around your face. Plus, no one else was wearing them on the street and that was important to the mods.

However, no one really knows who started it and how it caught on so quickly. It’s not like anyone can say oh that was Dave, he got one in Whitechapel for a bob and we all thought; “fuck it!…. let’s all get one”. Therefore, one is left thinking, why not any other warm coat of that time…why that parka and why ONLY that particular parka ??

Yes we all know mods wore other jackets and coats but only one coat kept its place as the first choice for scooter riding and only one coat became the most prolific symbol of Mod and that was the Fishtail Parka.

For me, it is not hard to imagine the early 60’s and a small group of early mods, or maybe even “Coffee Bar Cats” seeking out a warm coat and stumbling across a US Army M1951 Fishtail Parka in the local Army Stores. And seeing the price, seeing the quality, seeing the benefits of warmth, head protection and durability, and the fact that no one was wearing them, made the choice that this was the coat to wear.

They rode back into town adorned in their new gear, espousing the benefits of being warm and dry, the next day 4 more mods went back to that same army store and got themselves kitted out. Within a week, you a one gang of 12 mods all riding around wearing the same Fishtail Parkas.

The same processes took place as they chatted with the mod gang in the next block, and Mr Army Stores was having a good month with lots of new visitors. These early mods, being the trendsetters and likely to be looked up to by new and aspiring mods, were soon copied. By 1964 Mod was in full swing and thousands of mods were now springing up all over London and all needed to complete their uniform.

And by 1965, Mr Army Stores had retired to a small condo in St Lucia and every mod in London had a M1951 Fishtail Parka


No part of this article may be copied, transmitted, stored or used in anyway without the express permission of fishtailparkas.com . If you wish to use this article simply contact me.


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The Mods: where did they come from ?

Article©: The Mods: where did they come from ?
Copyright 2006 fishtailparkas.com
Far apart from the golden age of 1950's America,

1950's Britain was still on rations, and struggling to get over the devastation suffered in World War II.

However, for the British youth a new dawn was rising.

Thanks to full employment and hire purchase and a new found freedom from National Service, the British youth was on their own two feet with money in their pocket and they wanted everybody to know about. A new movement known as the "teddy boys" was emerging across the UK, influenced by American Rock ‘n’ Roll and as Bill Haley's cult movie "Rock Around The Clock" premiered in the Trocadero in London's Elephant and Castle followed by outrage from the British establishment and joyous riots from the youths, the Ted movement was now alive and kicking.

Ever eager for a scoop, the press did not fail to capitalise on this new front page fodder. Soon the violence, and imminent danger that the Teddy Boys posed to British society was all over the front pages. From the prime minister to the archbishop, the British establishment was in turmoil as they watched their once dutiful youths turn into unruly wild cats. Whether much of this was by natural progression or greatly fuelled by the press, the outcome was a rough, dangerous youth movement that was loving every minute in the limelight and indeed acting up to it.

The teddy boys were here and soon the music makers and fashion retailers caught on to a new and untapped market. Very soon, commercial Rock’n’Roll was being slopped out and Teddy Boy fashions were on the high street and every kid wanted a quiff and a flick-knife. Thus, almost as quick as they had come, they were burnt out by their own famed notoriety and at now at odds with themselves for becoming everything they despised, just another high street fad, the Teds were gone.

By late 1950’s the original teddy boys were no more, broken up into various sub cultures, most fell by the wayside but two major groups remained and grew from the ruins of what was once the Teddy Boys to become the “Ton Up Boys” and the “Coffee Bar Cats”…

The “Ton Up Boys”, were those teddies that had held the motorcycle and American Rock’n’Roll as their foundations and now wore leather, big boots and rode British machines to and from various road side cafés.

The “Coffee Bar Cats” aspired to a more Latin look, and their neo Italian style appreciated modern jazz, ventless thin lapelled box suit jackets and they chose Italian scooters as the superior mode of transport for such well dressed Cats…

It’s not hard to figure how these late 50’s early 60’s sub culture’s and indeed underground fashions grew into the Mods and Rockers of the mid 60’s.

The Coffee Bar Cats felt they were the modern movement and the Ton Up Boys represented all that was gone and should remain buried in a pile of dirty bikes and dirty leathers. Hence as they grew and needed to encompass all their new members, they eventually termed themselves the Modernists and the Mods were born.

The “Ton Up Boys”, enjoying the same growth in numbers and being known for their love of Rock ‘n Roll found themselves becoming the Rockers.

Unsurprisingly the Rockers did not agree with the Modernist view of themselves as outdated and somehow lower class. They saw the Mods with their dandy dress, penchant for wearing eyeliner and popping pills at every opportunity as an insult to all that is British and macho.

The Rockers did not like the Mods and the Mods did not like the Rockers.
The lines were drawn…..

No part of this article may be copied, transmitted, stored or used in anyway without the express permission of fishtailparkas.com . If you wish to use this article simply contact me.

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