Types of Clothing Worn in Alaska

by Eric Cedric

Alaska is a place of extremes: Extreme weather, extreme landscapes and extreme living conditions are matter of fact in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Alaska natives adapted to the harsh conditions using available materials to make clothing to withstand the elements. Modern garb in Alaska needs the same functionality, with a little fashion mixed in.

Alaska "Function" Clothing

From driving to flying, you need to be prepared for anything in Alaska. Clothing needs to be able to withstand rain, snow, ice, extreme cold and driving winds. For backcountry "function" in clothing, cotton is a no-no. Long underwear pieces are made from synthetic (polyesters) or natural fibers other than cotton, such as wool or silk. Fleece and soft-shell jackets, pants and vests are used for layering. Gore-tex and semipermeable outer shell jackets provide needed protection from precipitation and wind.

Alaska "Fashion" Clothing

Alaska's largest city, Anchorage, is a modern city with malls, gourmet restaurants and boutique shops. Big businesses like British Petroleum and Exxon have offices and headquarters in Anchorage, and employees wear professional garb as well as high-fashion styles. Despite the objections of animal rights groups, fur coats, hats and gloves provide Alaskans with fully functioning clothing with flash and style. Fur mukluks for feet are worn by many Alaskans.

Alaska "Traditional" Clothing

From Yupik to Tlingit, Alaska natives learned how to use the available resources to make clothing capable of keeping them alive in the extreme weather. Tlingit and Haida, natives of the panhandle, used eulochon, or "hooligan," oil to treat hides, giving them a waterproof quality to withstand the heavy rains where they lived. Yupik Eskimos made hats, gloves and mukluks from seal skins. Athabaskan, natives to the interior of Alaska, made shirts, jackets, pants, mitts and hats from caribou, moose and bear hides. The Athabaskan sought wolverine hides to use as ruffs around the face for its ability to shed ice and moisture.

About the Author

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.