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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Russian Ushanka Hats

Everything you wanted to know about Russian “ushanka” hats

Armageddon-poster06.jpgDo you remember the “Armageddon” movie with Bruce Willis? Just in case you don’t, it’s a disaster science-fiction drama film that follows a group of drillers sent by NASA to stop a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
Remember now? I bet you do! Moreover, I think you might be wondering why I am talking about this movie, especially having announced the topic to be Russian winter hats.
I am doing it because of this character: http://shininghappypeople.net/rwotd/media/blogs/rwotd/2009-11/andropov-in-hat.jpg
His name is Lev Andropov, played by a Swedish actor Peter Stormare. Frankly speaking, a lot of Russian people were insulted watching such a sarcastic depiction of a Russian person and a cosmonaut: always drunk, wearing a fur hat and a padded jacket (Seriously? In space? Yeah, right…) and just covered in all that Soviet memorabilia which we obviously hardly ever wear, plus he bangs on the equipment and burns the Russian Mir space station. Really, what nation would like a depiction like that? Oh, and one more thing: Russians don’t wear ushankas with T-shirts. We are reasonable people, so we don’t wear winter hats with T-shirts.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to point out is that this episode also shows how people of other nations (at least some of them) see Russians. It is obvious that the ushanka hat is one of the first things that come to mind when people think of Russia. The moment you see it you realize that:
  • it’s incredibly warm and comfortable
  • it’s stylish.
Just look at these hats. I’d never believe anybody who says they are not stylish. And they are also very, very warm and cozy. No other hats can give you such a degree of warmth and comfort.
Polar Fox Hat Silver Fox Fur Hat Mink Ushanka Hat
And then you realize that there are two ways of wearing it: you can either tie the ear flaps together on top of the hat, or you can tie them under your chin, thus protecting your ears, jaw and lower chin from the cold. So it’s definitely a necessary piece of clothing in the cold climate, where other hats just aren’t as good at protecting you from the frost and strong wind.
Ushanka hats are also called trooper hats, or aviator hats. They are often made of sheepskin, beaver, rabbit or muskrat fur. For the most part, Russian people don’t like faux fur, though cheaper ushanka hats are made from it. They called it “fish fur”, first of all, because fish has no fur, and secondly, because no matter how innovative this faux fur may be, it still can’t be compared to natural fur in terms of warmth, comfort and durability. No wonder ushankas are so common in the North of Russia, including the Arctic region of the country. They can keep you warm and safe even at the lowest temperatures!

The origin of ushankas

The Russian word “shapka-ushanka” literally means “a hat with ears”, but there is no evidence that hats with flexible earflaps were invented here. In fact, they were known not just in Russia, but also in Germany and Scandinavia back in the 17th century, so it’s impossible to say which country started using them first. The Russian “forefather” of ushanka was the so-called “treukh” (literally: three ears). It was a round fur hat made of sheepskin. It had a large flap on the back that completely covered the neck, and two smaller ear flaps that could be tied up under the chin. Naturally, these winter hats were especially popular in the central and northern parts of Russia because of their severe winters. But the standard ushankas we all know were actually designed and produced in Russia in the XXth century, after the Revolution.
Back in the days of the Russian Civil War, Aleksandr Kolchak introduced a uniform hat which was almost identical to modern ushanka, but with an extra eye-flap. It was known under the name “Kolchakovka”. However Kolchak and the White Army lost that war, so his invention was forgotten. But during the Winter War many soldiers suffered from cold and even died of exposure, so the government had to come up with a warm uniform including warm hats for soldiers, and standard Russian “budyonovkas” were replaced with ushankas.
Soon ushankas became known outside the Russian borders. Now they are considered a symbol of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the commercial export of Russian ushankas started. Now ushanka hats are included in the winter uniform for military and police forces in Canada, the USA and several other countries. Police and military forces mainly use gray, green and blue versions of ushanka hats, but civilians have a much larger choice of different stylish and warm hats. The China People’s Liberation Army uses a similar type of hats as part of their winter uniforms. Ushanka hats also made their way into the winter collections of many fashion brands, including Ralph Loren and Chanel.

Some tips from Russians that will help your ushanka hat to last long:

  1. Russian women often store ushankas and other fur hats on top of tall round jars in order to avoid damage to the fur and to keep the shape of hats.
  2. If you don’t have a jar tall and big enough, just make sure there’s enough space in your closet. Besides, you can scrunch up some newspapers or just sheets of paper and put them inside your hat to preserve its shape.
  3. Fur hats can’t be stored in plastic bags. The fur needs to “breathe”! So the best way to store your hat is to carefully cover it with newspapers or just paper from all sides and put it in a closet, because it has to be stored in the dark place.
  4. Fur absorbs all smells, including the smell of those moth balls you are using. So make sure you take your fur hat out of the closet several days before you plan to wear it to make sure the “closet smell” disappears.
  5. If your fur gets wet, just shake it off and let your hat dry naturally. It’s the best you can do for it. Don’t use a hairdryer or put your hat near a heater because fur hates heat.

Wondering how to find a Russian Ushanka hat of the right size?

First of all, tape measure around the widest part of your head just above your eyebrows and ears. It’s better if your hat fits a bit loose. And then see the conversion chart that we have prepared for you to figure out the size you need.
Hat Size
Measurement Around Head
American Hat Size
Russian Hat Size

7  3/8
23 1/2”
7  1/2
7  5/8
24 3/8”
7  3/4
24 7/8”
7  7/8

Now all you have to do is visit our Russian store online and pick the hat that you like most!

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