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What is an Anorak?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 21, 2024
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An anorak is also called a parka. Traditional anoraks are heavy, hip-length coats with a wide hood that helps shield the face from the wind. The Inuit peoples of the Arctic invented the anorak as wind chill protection to wear when hunting; the hood and body section of these traditional anoraks are often lined with animal fur to add extra warmth. Fish oil is used on the outside to create a water-resistant finish. Today, many manufacturers produce different types of winter coat and hooded jacket anoraks made from an assortment of materials.

The pullover jacket type of anorak has an opening for the head and it may have a snap or button closure at the neck. Partial zippers are another, often more fashionable, option for pullover anoraks. These may be sold as "1/4 zip" or "1/2 zip" styles, depending on the zipper length. Sporty stripes and bright colors are often features of pullover anoraks. The most common fabric used for pullover anoraks is waterproof nylon.

Down filled ski jacket anoraks can be especially warm. Down is the under layer of soft feathers of geese and ducks. Many other winter weight anoraks have synthetic filling, but they may have microfiber fleece lining for added warmth. Microfiber fleece is known for being warm without adding bulk; it has a soft feel to it and is used for blankets and sleepwear.

Winter anoraks are typically worn with snow pants and boots. While most heavy anoraks are hooded, the types without hoods can be worn with a knitted cap and scarf. Fuzzy fabric that looks like fur, modeled after the original Inuit anorak, is featured as trim on some hooded anoraks.

A drawstring waist can give an anorak a stylish look. It's also a flattering style on most people, as it adds a pulled-in waistline to an otherwise bulky jacket. Drawstring waist anoraks also tend to look less casual than the other types. Anoraks with a drawstring waist also tend to be longer for added wind protection; many of these are almost knee length rather than just reaching the hips or thighs.

Anorak styles of raincoats are much lighter in weight than the traditional parka type. These lighter weight, water-resistant rain anoraks are made of many different fabrics, from plastic to gabardine. Gabardine is a long-lasting, tightly woven material known for its toughness. Its fibers may contain wool, rayon or cotton. Plastic raincoat anoraks are less expensive than the gabardine type, but typically don't last nearly as long.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By kylee07drg — On Aug 15, 2011

I visited my friend in Canada last winter, and she let me borrow one of her anoraks, because my jacket did not keep me warm enough to walk around outdoors up there. I loved it, and if winters were cold enough where I lived, I would have bought one.

She had a hip-length anorak with a drawstring along the bottom and another one along the edges of the cuffs. I tightened these up to keep out the cold, biting breeze. The part of my gloves that covers a section of my forearms was securely held in place by the snug cuffs.

The fur along the hood and neck area snuggled up to my face like a puppy. It really kept me warm, which I thought would be impossible in those subzero temperatures.

By orangey03 — On Aug 15, 2011

I lost my job in November of last year, and I was desperately seeking any type of work. I started shoveling sidewalks and driveways to earn extra cash.

For the first month, I had to bundle up in layers of flannel and sweaters to stay warm. By the second month of shoveling, I had enough money to buy a used anorak from a thrift store.

I don’t think I shivered once after putting that thing on. It had a microfiber fleece lining, so it was like being wrapped in the warmest kind of blanket and wrapped again in waterproof material. I got the pullover kind with the hood for maximum insulation.

By shell4life — On Aug 15, 2011

I bought an anorak during my first winter at college. After seeing how much walking outside I would have to do to get from class to class, I knew that I would need some good insulation during the cold months. Some of my classes were nearly a half mile apart!

I found a pink waterproof anorak. The material has a shimmer to it, and the fake white fur that lines the hood and the edges of the collar is flecked with glitter. It doesn’t match all of my winter clothes, but it covers them up so completely that it doesn’t matter. Also, I always remove it once I get indoors, because it is entirely too warm to wear anywhere but in freezing temperatures.

By Perdido — On Aug 14, 2011

When my husband moved to Mississippi from New York, he brought his parka with him. He found that he did not have many opportunities to wear it down here! I think we had maybe two weeks of temperatures below freezing, but for the most part, it stayed in the fifties.

His parka is black so that he could be seen in a blizzard. He told me that sometimes it snows so much up there that you can’t see a couple of feet in front of you.

The lining is some sort of synthetic material made to look like fur. It is very thick, which also makes it very warm.

By julies — On Aug 13, 2011

When I bought my anorak last winter I was looking for one that was not as long as the traditional style. I am a short person and didn't want a coat that was hard to get around in when I was outside.

I found several choices of them on Amazon and was able to compare styles and prices. I ended up going with one that was a little shorter and had a draw string waist.

What I like about the draw string is that you feel like you can bundle yourself up even more against the cold. I think there are more colors and styles available than there used to be, which makes this style of coat much more appealing for many people.

By honeybees — On Aug 13, 2011

Skiing and snowmobiling are two of my favorite winter sports, but I don't like to go if I am going to be cold all day. When I was looking for some new ski and snowmobiling gear, I was interested in anoraks because they are known to be so warm.

I ordered the warmest one I could find from Eddie Bauer online. This parka has the down filling and is the warmest coat I have ever worn.

I got quite a bit of use out of it the first year, and hope to have it for many years to come. Unless it is extremely could outside I don't wear it everyday, but keep it for when I go skiing,snowmobiling, or am going to outside for an extended period of time.

By Sara007 — On Aug 13, 2011

For those that love skiing, buying your anorak in early March or late September can really net you the best deals. I have found some really high-quality parkas as low as 80% off just because they were last seasons styles.

It seems to me, that especially with brand names, that it is really important for a lot of people to wear the latest style. It really seems funny to me because anoraks are pretty classic looking for the most part and really don't change very much over time.

Stocking up on parkas long before the ski season starts, or just after ends can save you hundreds of dollars. This is even a better deal if you have kids to keep warm as well.

By wander — On Aug 12, 2011

When choosing an anorak for winter it is a good idea to invest a fair amount of research into the purchase of your parka. From experience I can tell you that some winter parkas just don't hold up well enough for you to spend a lot of money on them.

While there are cheap parkas available, good quality ones with down filling will really keep you warm when the temperatures dip below freezing.

Before I purchased my anorak last year I went online and looked at reviews of popular styles. It really helped me to make a short list of winter jackets that would hold up to the frigid cold temperatures we get here during the winter months.

By Windchime — On Aug 11, 2011

@yumdelish - I'm surprised you don't notice people wearing anoraks, as where I live they are still quite popular. Perhaps it's just that they look different these days?

Since celebrities have worn them I think the designs have gotten more fashionable. Plus they are available in brighter colors, which is appealing to younger people of course.

Personally I'm more focused on warmth than style, but my teenage son happily wears his parka. He found it online and loves the fur lining and military cut.

By yumdelish — On Aug 11, 2011

When I was a child we all wore anoraks. I remember them being quilted in a kind of diamond stitched pattern, and they always seemed to be in murky colours such as grey, brown and dark green.

I suppose they were all the fashion at the time, though I was too young to care about that. I wore what my mother bought me and no arguments!

These days I rarely see anyone wearing this type of coat, which is a shame as I remember it as being very warm and snug in the chilly run up to a British winter.

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