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The Russian Ushanka Fur Hat: The Perfect Blend of Warmth and Style

Written by Vadim on April 13, 2011 – 6:30 pm -

A Russian woman wearing a white Ushanka fur hat

Russian winters are notoriously cold and harsh, and the Russian people have thus developed many different types of warm clothing for survival and comfort. The ushanka, a type of warm winter hat, is one of these.

Throughout the world, Russians are associated with round fur hats. Round fur hats with flaps that can either be tied or otherwise fastened on the head, or unfolded to cover the ears are called ushanka. More than just a hat, they also serve as protection for the head, as they are thick and strong. However, most people who wear these hats appreciate them for their unparalleled warmth. Ushanka cover not just the head, but the ears and often a good deal of the neck and jaw as well.

The ushanka is associated with Russia, but similar hats are worn in many cold regions and have been for millennia. Fur hats with flexible ear flaps were worn not just in Russia, but in Germany, Scandinavia, and Central Asia. However, Russians began wearing the perfectly round hat called the ushanka in the early twentieth century. The style quickly caught on due to the function and warmth of the hat, and it soon became popular and even ubiquitous in Russia. The Soviet Army began using ushanka during the Winter War, when many Russian soldiers died of cold and exposure. A new hat and uniform solved this problem, and ushanka were soon adopted as part of the cold weather military uniform in locations as far-flung as Poland and Canada.

A military issue Russian Ushanka fur hat, worn by soldiers during winter time

Ushanka thus became a symbol of Russia. In fact, United States president Gerald Ford famously wore an ushanka during his 1974 visit to the Soviet Union as a show of solidarity. However, many people did not want to wear a hat associated with communism, so the ushanka remained out of style beyond the borders of the USSR. Ushanka began to build in popularity throughout the world after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the world rediscovered the Russian people and vice-versa.

Ushanka made completely of fur are the best known type, and indeed they are popular in Russia due to fur’s warmth and beauty. However, they can be made with sheepskin, artificial fur or with a fur interior and cloth top. Artificial fur is common due to its economy and ready availability, and is known jokingly in Russia as ‘fish fur’. The classic ushanka, however, is made from genuine fur inside and out. Fur tends to be warmer and more durable than any other material, and thus is best suited to the bitter chill of an Eastern European winter.

American rapper Jay-Z wearing a brown Russian ushanka fur hat

Ushanka have become especially stylish in the past few years, with celebrities and common folk wearing them for their warmth, durability, and function. They can be found in a variety of colors and made from many different materials to suit any sense of style. While the ushanka remains a symbol of the cold weather Russian people, it is a symbol that can be enjoyed by just about anybody, anywhere.

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