The windbreaker, or anorak, otherwise known as a windcheater in Great Britain, is a short, close-fitting garment with a hood, designed for the upper part of the body to give protection from the wind. The windbreaker, worn by men and women alike, is to casual dressing what the overcoat is to formal dress.
The windbreaker first became popular as an item of informal outerwear in the 1970s, but its history can be traced back almost 500 years. It is similar to, and descended from, the parkas worn by Inuits in arctic conditions. In fact, the word "anorak" is derived from the Danish interpretation of the Inuit word annoraaq.
In one version, the Inuit parka was made of two animal skins (either seal or caribou) sandwiched together, with the skin side of each facing outward and the hair side facing inward to trap warm air and retain it for insulation purposes. Although it was not a rain garment as such, it was generally waterproofed, using seal gut until other methods were introduced during the nineteenth century. These parkas were adapted by Western polar explorers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and modified versions entered the twentieth-century sports wardrobe. Parkas became standard wear for skiing and other winter sports, and gradually were adopted for ordinary outdoor use in the winter. After World War II, nylon and other artificial-fiber textiles replaced animal skins in the production of parkas, and advances in the development of waterproof fabrics and efficient insulating materials led to the production of parkas that were thinner and less bulky than older versions. During the 1970s, anoraks and other forms of casual jackets grew in popularity among younger men searching for outerwear that was both functional and fashionable.
Modern windbreakers are usually made from nylon, poly-cotton, or nylon/cotton mixes. These fabrics may be rubberized, oiled, or treated with other waterproofing finishes; at the more expensive end of the market, the garments are designed with stormproof taping on all seams to make them impenetrable to the rain. The modern version is also cut slightly longer to cover the buttocks; cuffs are elasticized and pockets are often slanted for ease of entry, and are at hip level. The hood should fold down, close with a drawstring, and either fit into the collar or be detachable.
The windbreaker has had a significant impact on men's fashions. The rise of sportswear during the 1970s coincided with a boom in spectator sports, such as both soccer (known as football in Europe) and American football. Fans who filled stadiums in cold weather wanted good-looking protection from the elements, and numerous designers offered versions of the windbreaker to fill that demand. In the early twenty-first century, nearly every sportswear and casual-wear company has a version of a windbreaker in its collection. Most are produced to keep the wearer warm during sporting activities such as golf, boating, football, or tennis. More significantly, the windbreaker has taken the place of raincoats and over-coats in most younger men's wardrobes.
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