Russia is the land of the cold and the winter. The Russians do not dream of a white Christmas, they have it and cannot picture it without snow and freezing air. Indeed, it is the land well known for extremely low temperatures and at times it can even be an advantage. At least twice in the history of the country the enemies had to march-back off Moscow primarily because of the severe unbearable weather conditions. You may think of the Russians as some special sort of humans who are immune to the cold but it is not exactly true. The secret is in saying that we have heard from the Siberians who are trustworthy winter experts among the Russians. They say: ’It's not that we never get cold, the matter is that we know how to dress well so we don't get cold’
A legendary Russian fur hat called ’ushanka’ is a valid proof of the fact that the Russians have learnt the art of winter wise-dressing. It is surely more than a stereotypical souvenir foreign tourists often bring home from their travels. The birth of it is the result of the climate necessities and at times literal survival in extreme low temperatures.
The word itself derives from the word ’ushi’ that stands for ’ears’ in Russian.
When did ushanka appear?
There are several theories about possible sources. One of them states that a Mongolian helmet-like hat called ’ malakhai’ could have been a prototype for a Russian ushanka. Malakhai hat had ’ears’ that were designed to protect its owner from severe winds while worn down and could also be tied up at the back when the weather was warm. Mongolian tribes had ruled over the Eastern Slavs for about 400 years starting in 14th century so it is not a surprise to find the influence of Mongolian culture in various aspects of Russian life.
The Pomors, who are Russian coast-dwellers on the Arctic Ocean areas, also wore this functional hat type with long ’ears’. The fishermen used them as warm scarves while sailing to the icy waters of the White Sea.
No matter whether it came from the north or from the south, but this ear-flap hat became popular among Russian peasantry. Russian countrymen of the 16th century considered it to be a sign of wealth. In fact, both men and women wore it. The women's hats were ornamented with pearls on the back side that covered their hair.
Military uniform article
Later in 1919 at times of the Communist Revolution and the Civil War ushanka proved itself as a military uniform item both in the White (pro-monarchy) as well as the Red (pro-communist) Armies. The first one was called kolchakovka after the Imperial Russian admiral, military leader and polar explorer Alexander Kolchak. It was made of Japanese woolen cloth. The latter was called budyonovka after the Red Army cavalry commander Semyon Budyonny. It was sharp pointed on top since it was styled after the old Russian helmets that were so familiar to every Russian due to the heroic epic ballads and folk tales. Those hats were also woolen and for the reason of inadequate warmth quality were replaced with much heavier winter ushankasin the 30s.
The Navy men were the first military branch to put them on. The only possible color on the steam boats with coal dust floating in the air at that time was black. So were their hats, black as coal. The traditional color has been passed on to the present day Russian Navy uniform hat. All military services have ushankas of symbolic colors on, steel shade for land forces and night-sky blue belongs to air fleet.
The artifact of the fading out Soviet epoch
Ushanka has been popular through the ages up to the Soviet Union period when it continued to be the token of prestige and particular social status depending on what fur type it was made of. The most expensive and thus rare fur kinds were young reindeer, mink and caracul. Ordinary Soviets had to be content with sheepskin and rabbit. The imitation fur hats were called “Cheburashkas” after the famous Soviet cartoon character still deeply loved in Russia.
Oxford dictionary today defines this hat type as shapka that literally means ’hat’ in Russian.
It is an extremely popular tourist souvenir that is bought in Russia.
Ushanka today is the symbol chosen by the Chelsea soccer club fans. The club is owned by a well-known Russian businessman Roman Abramovich and a faux fur Chelski hat with a club logo is a must have for a genuine Chelsea admirer.
Slava Zaitsev, a world distinguished Russian artist and couturier, has brought fame to shapka in his traditional Russian style collections and thus has made it a high fashion accessory for sharp dressers.
Today shapka is the most recognizable attribute of a true Russian man. It’s become one of the symbols of the Soviet Union and subsequently – Russia. If you see one in a Hollywood movie, he definitely has it on. Seriously, don't they wear them all year around never taking them off even when asleep or taking a shower?!
The Russians have always admired and appreciated genuine fur. Historically peltry used to be money unit for the ancient Russians. If you come to present-day Russia in winter, preferably to Siberia, you will probably notice multitudes of people wearing fur coats and fur hats. Fur is definitely beyond any fashion there. In The Russian Store we suggest a collection of hats that were hand-crafted in Russia and made of a variety of the most favored and desired fur types. Such as:
- Rabbit fur, valued for its softness and levity
- Red fox fur, so attractive due to its brightness and tenderness
- Brown beaver fur, famous for its record-breaking durability
- Muskrat (ondatra) fur, liked for its excellent water resisting properties
- Mink fur, one the most valued and expensive fur types in the world
- Wool hats, loved and worn in all times and anywhere
- Faux-fur, for our respect and care for your taste in case you are an environment friendly customer
Quilted lining inside our hats will add more warmth and comfort. Our hats are the perfect meeting of practicality and prestige, style and substance. They surely will be the most comfortable and warmest hat you’ll ever own.