It was a long time coming. For years, I had struggled through each winter with a modern remix of a snorkel jacket by a brand I won’t mention. (I will offer that I bought it at Urban Outfitters for around $100 in winter of 2007.) It was reasonably warm, but it was shorter in length than a classic snorkel jacket, which typically dips below the hip. It had some trimmings of a basic snorkel, like a faux fur hood trim and plenty of pockets inside and out, but it was most definitely a younger pop version that was looking and feeling a little dated. It was trendy, cool and of-the-moment, but the sun had set on that particular moment. It was also starting to show wear and tear around the seams. It was time for something new: something more timeless and something built to last. 

Over the past few years, I’ve tried to educate my eye with things that will endure time. With money as tight as it is for me and most men, I can’t afford to invest in disposable of-the-moment things that will fall apart physically or aesthetically in a few years. I try to make choices that work now, would have worked 10 or 20 years ago, and will work 10 or 20 years from now. Anything that can be identified and time-stamped from so-and-so’s Spring 2010 collection or a specific period has no real value to me.

For the sake of replacing my tired snorkel jacket with a handsome, well-made, affordable and workable solution without trying to rewrite a classic design that has always worked, J.Crew provided a worthy option. Characteristic of the iconic original U.S. Air Force N-3B parka from the 1950s, which was designed to keep men on aircraft carriers warm in temperatures below -50ºF, J.Crew’s snorkel is a three-quarter length jacket with a fully attached hood with a sherpa lining and a removable faux fur trim. Under the tough nylon shell of the body is another hidden sherpa lining, making this coat incredibly warm. Also like the original military design, the zip closure can be covered with a button flap, providing further protection from cold air. 

The lining of the USAF’s N-3B was a blanket lining. J.Crew’s sherpa lining is covered with a durable but smooth nylon, making the jacket easy to slip on over anything from a sweater to a suit, with no friction. And like the original design, the jacket has all the right pockets in all the right places, both inside and out.

An original U.S. Air Force N-3B parka from the 1960s with a nylon shell and real fur hood trim from vintagetrends.com.

An original U.S. Air Force N-3B parka from the 1960s with a nylon shell and real fur hood trim from vintagetrends.com.

Keeping me quite warm on brutally cold Connecticut nights with nothing but a long sleeve thermal and a scarf underneath, this parka is the classically stylish ticket to reliable protection from the cold. 

A General J.Crew Construction Note:
All this good stuff said, I do have one (and only one) problem with this jacket and almost every other jacket and outerwear garment I’ve ever purchased from J.Crew: the thread work that fastens the exterior buttons to the jacket is often precarious. Within a week of purchasing the jacket, two of the exterior buttons became loose and ultimately fell off within another week of regular wear. This has also happened with at least one button on almost every other suit jacket or blazer I’ve purchased from J.Crew in the past few years. Fortunately, I have a skillset that includes button repair. But with a $300 jacket from a company in which Mickey Drexler takes great pride, it shouldn’t happen.

Advertisements