Ushanka – Iconic Russian Trapper Hat

Black Persian lamb ushankaWhen it comes to national stereotypes, it would probably be fair to say that winter trapper hats are the first to come to mind when Russian headwear is a topic. Although its earlier versions were many and could arguably be traced back to the Mongol times, the Russian ushanka hat as we know it today did originate in the USSR. In 1930s, the Soviet Navy personnel were the first to receive an adapted version made of sheepskin and leather. The remaining military forces followed suit around 1940 after the Red Army had commissioned a complete redesign of winter uniforms.

Grey Persian lamb ushankaAs a result, shapka (шапка, hat) ushanka was born. Its meaning comes from the Russian word for ears (уши [oo’shi]), which refers to the characteristic flaps. However, these do not cover just the ears. As a side benefit, back of the neck, cheeks, and chin could also be protected when draw strings are tied in the open hat setup. Certain models come with extra long flaps that can even be fastened to greatcoat collars using extra buttons. This applies to the hats worn by troops serving beyond the Arctic Circle in Russia. Few other places on Earth require such wardrobe measures.

First military ushanka hats for soldiers were made of a special blend of acrylic fibers and sheepskin to make them particularly durable in battle, whereas higher ranks enjoyed mouton exclusively. An example of Brown Persian lamb trooper hatthe latter is the sheared sheepskin officer hat. Despite producing purely functional headwear in the beginning, furriers subsequently started to experiment with use of other furs. Army orders led to the creation of first truly valuable ushankas made of Persian lamb. One such model was intended for and is still used by the Russian Federation Guard of Honor Company. These mix Persian lamb with woolen cloth for economic reasons. Full fur hats, once again, are intended for the likes of generals.

Gerald FordOutside the military domain, variation of ushanka styles is much broader, being available for literally any budget. From cheap faux fur and artificial leather types, affordable rabbit fur options to muskrat, beaver, and ultimately mink fur headpieces. Even President Gerald Ford could not resist getting the latter while on an official visit to Russia in 1974. Despite denoting somewhat different looks initially, the following terms are generally used interchangeably to identify the same kind of hat nowadays: aviator, trapper, and trooper. Whatever your own semantic preference may be, we advise investing in an ushanka made of high quality fur. It really is worth it!

Ambassador – Essential Winter Dress Hat

Churchill, Roosevelt and StalinIf there is one style of winter dress hat to single out it would certainly be the ambassador. Originating in the Soviet Union more than 70 years ago, it had quickly become the favorite among the ruling elite. Famous Yalta Conference picture shows Winston Churchill wearing one. Later on, Soviet General Secretaries Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, and Mikhail Gorbachev could not resist the temptation of donning many kinds of such timeless headwear. Eventually, the general public were allowed to indulge in showing off as well. The hat became a total success. So much so that people lovingly nicknamed it the pie or ship hat associating its form with the respective objects.

Black ambassador hatIt must be noted that the style initially split into two main branches. Mainly, the difference lies in the presence of a false brim or an additional outer layer at the base of the hat that serves not only a decorative purpose but also makes the hat more rigid. Traditionally, both types do not include foldaway ear flaps. However, due to popular demand, we now offer this as an option made of thin woolen cloth that also covers a part of the neck.

Leonid BrezhnevMost importantly, classic look can only be achieved with an ambassador hat made of Persian lamb, although other options (such as mink and faux fur) are available. When it comes to color variations, you will most likely be selecting between black, brown, and grey. Final decision will ultimately depend on your wardrobe. So what is it going to be for you today – a Gorbachev or a Brezhnev, as we call them ourselves these days? You are also most welcome to inquire about a matching collar, scarf, or even a full winter coat.