Ushanka - History and Types of Russian Winter Caps
Ushanka is Russian hat with round crown and ear flaps, usually made of fur. On the Russian word ushanka means "ear hat", but today some call it in English just "chapka". It is also called "Russian hat". Ear flaps have strings which can be tied together on the top of the hat or at the chin, so flaps can also protect the lower part of the face from cold weather or the wind. Ushanka also has a visor, which is usually unfolding. It is a warm hat, ideal for the coldest winter months. If we have on mind that head expands 60-70% of the heat, ushanka is more helmet than a hat.
Expensive ushanka hats are made entirely of sheepskin or rabbit fur, but there are also cheaper versions made of artificial fur, wool pile or with partial use of leather and cloth. At some point, ushanka was made of fox fur, too.
Artificial fur hats are referred to as "fish fur" since it is not from any real animal.
The history of ushanka dates back to the 17th century when hat with earflaps called “treukh” was worn in central and northern Russia. Hats similar to ushanka existed centuries ago on Balkan and Scandinavia as well in Russia and Ukraine, but what we today know as Ushanka is from the 20th century, more precisely from Russian Civil War. At that time, Aleksandr Kolchak, ruler of Siberia, decided that hat with round crown and ear flaps (at that time called kolchakovka, but it was actually ushanka) should be a part of the standard uniform. When he, in front of White Army, lost the war, Red Army didn't accept ushanka, although their uniform's hat, budenovka, wasn't warm as ushanka. Only after Winter War against Finland, when many died of cold, Red Army made changes to their uniforms, and they accepted ushanka like a Russian version of Finnish army hat, turkislakki M36, which was better protection from cold than budenovka. Proof that ushanka was a good choice is the fact that German soldiers during the Battle of Moscow replaced their hats with ushanka hats because they couldn't stand Russian coldness. From that time, ushanka has become one of the symbols of the Soviet Union.
This hat isn't a standard issue just for the Russian military but has become winter uniform's hat in many countries such as Canada and United States (ushanka wasn't imported to the USA until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991). There is a gray version for the military in Canada and USA police, as well as green for camouflage, black version for the navy and blue ushanka used by United States Post Office. One version of ushanka is used in Norway. Besides that, Ushanka is still hat of Germain police and Finnish Defence Forces. In China, it was part of People's Liberation Army's winter uniform, and people there still call it "the Lei Feng hat" because of Lei Feng who wore it.
Like you can see, ushanka has had different versions over time, but it is still in use as one of the warmest hats ever. It was initially male hat, but soon it was changed. Although Russian army decided in 2013 that ushanka should be substituted with new uniform hat, this hat is still a fashion piece made of different materials and in different colors.
Today, modern types of ushanka are more popular than classic military ushanka. Trapper hats combine the aviator cap and the ushanka and they are considered more casual than the military-style ushanka.