How the Once-Nerdy Anorak Became a Menswear Essential

A jacket to suit all comers, from mountaineers to sneakerheads

August 10, 2018 9:00 am

The humble anorak has long suffered from a crisis of misidentity.

Some toss the label around willy-nilly to define any and all styles of pullover jacket, while others believe it to be an inclusive term for various styles of hooded raincoat or windbreaker.

The anorak, though, has a square-rectangle relationship with both of those categories: not all pullovers and hooded jackets are anoraks, but all anoraks are, by definition, hooded pullovers. Those are their two defining characteristics.

The word itself, as you probably guessed, has northerly origins: anorak derives from a Greenlandic word for a women’s garment worn in the early 1900s, but was later co-opted by the fasion world to describe zipperless parkas that resembled those worn by the Inuit and other near-Arctic peoples. The style was popularized in England in the 1980s and ’90s, the word even becoming an epithet of sorts to describe niche enthusiasts like trainspotters, groups among whom the anorak jacket was popular.

In recent years, though, the anorak has increasingly found footing as both a streetwear and technical essential. That is, you’re just as likely to see one on a sneakerhead as you are a backcountry skier. The former love it for its billowy proportions, bold styling and nods to ’90s fasion, while the latter embrace its underrated functionality — the lack of a zipper means that anoraks often come with large-format “kangaroo” pockets, which offer easy access to snacks, gadgets, handwarmers and the like. 

Below, you’ll find eight styles suitable for any and all occasions.

The Classic
Patagonia Torentshell Pullover | $119

The All-Weather
Coldsmoke Shadow eVent Anorak | $285

The I Love the ’90s
L.L. Bean Mountain Classic Multi-Color | $59.50

The Snowbird
Fjallraven High Coast Wind Anorak | $112

The Huntsman
Ball and Buck Waxed Cotton Anorak | $348

The Don’t-Get-Hit-by-a-Car
K-Way Le Vrai Leon 3.0 | $84

The Rainman
Rains Camp Anorak | $84

The Sweater Weather
Deso Supply Half-Zip Hoodie | $129

Main image via Ball and Buck

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