Follow TV Tropes


Russian Fashion

Go To
Even in the days of the czar, Russian court dress was distinctive.

"Gdye mozhna koopit blue jeans?"
Flight of the Old Dog, by Dale Brown.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union didn't really have much access to Western fashion, unless you were one of the nomenklatura or otherwise well connected. This is why Sergei in the novel is surprised to see a woman wearing a denim jacket and jeans (he asks "Where did you get those blue jeans?"), gladly trading his coat for it. Note, though, that this is a fairly overblown notion — while for a time in The '60s and early Seventies the authorities tried to fight this "cowtowing before the West" (including cutting too-narrow trousers), by the mid-Seventies they finally relented and even started the domestic production of the most coveted items such as the blue jeans, as well as importing knock-off ones from Turkey and India. Still it didn't have much effect, as not only was the quality often atrocious, but the mere fact that they were domestically produced made them not "true" and thus not worth it.

Since the collapse though, Russian women (and men) have grabbed Western fashions voraciously. Their upper and upper-middle classes are currently often found wearing several salaries on their person at once. In extreme cases, a driver's currently worn outfit can be worth more than his car. The vast majority of Russians, however, dress very similarly to the average person in the West.

This article, however, will focus on the items of clothing that are specifically Russian, or very common there. Note, that most 'traditional' items were outdated in USSR times or even earlier, and even in USSR times Russian fashion was heavily westernised.

  • Bashlyk: A cone shaped hood of Cossack and Turkic origin. Associated with the early Reds with Rockets, but used before that by the Imperial Russian Military.
  • Budyonnovka: Hat of the Reds with Rockets until the 1930s, like a kepi, but with a cone-shaped top. Associated with the Russian Civil War era and Communism, despite initially being designed for an Imperial WWI victory parade. Its creator, a famous Romantic painter Victor Vasnetsov, styled it after a traditional Russian cone-shaped helmet (which wasn't, in fact, uniquely Russian, but was in use in all Europe during the Early and Early-High Middle Ages; you could see a Norman knight wearing a similar helmet and not be surprised).
  • Gymnastiorka: The one-piece smock-style standard tunic for Soviet soldiers in WW2, which was based on the traditional peasant shirt called "kosovorotka". This tunic also resembles the modern U.S. "Combat shirt", except made of less advanced materials.
  • Kaftan: For Russians, a long man's coat with tight sleeves. Now mostly worn by reconstructors and some of the Orthodox Church clergy.
  • Kokoshnik: A traditional female headdress, used with:
  • Sarafan: a sleeveless jumper-dress. Mostly used now for folk dances, along with the previous item (though a simpler, more formal-looking version is also common in school uniforms).
  • Kosovorotka: A male Russian peasant's shirt, literally "oblique collar" after its collar, which seals to the side. Not tucked in.
  • Babushka: Worn by country women and older women in cities. A relic of the frozen in time Soviet fashion. Initially was a piece of clothing worn by religious mandate and symbolizing women's submission and modesty, similarly to modern Islamic headscarves. Ironically, a red or scarlet headscarf was a typical headgear for female Commissars, Chekists or other strong, independent women aligned with Bolshevism in the Russian Civil War era.
    • Note that in Russian "Babushka" (stress on the first syllable) means "Grandmother". "Babushka" (stressed on the second syllable) as a headscarf is a strictly American usage, stemming from the fact that when the word was adopted into English, only grannies still wore them.
  • Telogreika: literally translated as "body warmer", a quilted short coat. The most common type of winter uniform until the 1960s and was first issued by the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War. It is also still popular today among many blue-collar workers in the successor states of the USSR. Very common in all media depicting the Eastern Front of the aforementioned war. The other name of this coat, "vatnik", has recently become a derisive nickname for Russian patriots in both Russia itself and Ukraine.
  • Papakha: A wool hat (often made out of karakul sheep skin), associated with Georgia and Cossacks, sometimes worn by Russians with Rusting Rockets officers and generals. In fact, a papakha is a regulation winter hat for the officers from colonel up.
    • Land forces officers, that is. Naval officers (even those with land ranks) of corresponding grade wear a flat cylindrical kepi made of karakul fur, which is nicknamed "hat-with-a-handle" ("шапка-с-ручкой"note ) due to a fake leather chinstrap normally tied across the front.
  • Telnyashka: A striped top, usually dark blue and white, worn by sailors, submariners, VDV (paratroopers — they are equivalent in reputation and kill to the US Army Rangers), Spetsnaz (Which are just special forces in general), tankers, border guards, presidential guards, rescue swimmers, marines, pilots, border guards... The Telnyashka is a symbol of masculinity as ell as of military pride. See Color-Coded for Your Convenience for assistance.
  • Ushanka: The Russian hat. Made of fur with the ear flaps. Often worn by soldiers and cops during the long Russian winter. The army and police standard issue hat is made of cheap artificial fur (derisively nicknamed "fish fur"); civilian hats are of natural fur and thus more expensive.
    • Some have gotten to the US. Chief Marge Gunderson in Fargo is wearing one.
    • Some historians suggest that they might also be an adoption from the steppe nomads, as very similar hats are still could be seen among various Turkic tribes of the Great Steppe, and the early Kievan Rus' hats were mostly round leather skullcaps or tall conical hats made of wool, often with the fur trim.
    • Old style ushanka-like hats were known as treukh ("three ears") or malakhay (a vaguely Turkic or Mongol loanword). The modern army ushanka was invented by Admiral Kolchak, the notorious White Guard leader.
  • Valenki (singular Valenok): Felt boots, used by the Soviet and Russian military during winter. Helped them win the Great Patriotic War, since their feet didn't freeze. Now have lost most of their popularity in cities, because these boots excel in walking on snow (particularly common in the country, uncommon in cities) and are terrible at walking on slush (they are not waterproof at all).
  • Sapogi (Jackboots): lingered in the Soviet army longer than in any other, currently being slowly faded out. Sometimes, the boots are also worn by civilians in the backcountry and blue collar workers, since they are somewhat practical "off-road" footwear. Sapogi are ranked by their material:
    • Box-calf leather (khrom, because chrome salts are used in curing this leather): the most high-quality boots, shiny, handsome, more or less comfortable and expensive, but not very durable compared to the types below. Part of the dress uniform of Soviet officers and modern Kremlin guards, often bought by civilian horseback riding and LARP enthusiasts.
    • Cow yuft, or yalovye leather: rugged cowhide. These boots are not as shiny, handsome and comfortable, and also heavier, but way more durable, nigh unkillable. Were used by Soviet officers and cadets as day-to-day footwear, today they are highly prized by outdoorsmen. There are also pig and horse yuft (yuftevye) leather, of somewhat lesser quality.
    • Kirza, or fake leather (from Kirovsky Zavod, a manufacturing plant where it was invented): similar to Western leatherette. Very heavy, stiff and generally uncomfortable. Kirza is the standard material for soldiers' field jackboots, or for similar boots used in blue-collar work.
    • Regular combat boots are especially prized and are now gradually replacing jackboots from service (often being bought privately).
      • Jackboots may be impractical in both garrison service and mountain warfare (the only kind of warfare The New Russia engaged itself in, to date), but they are the best thing there is in large-scale wars on wide open plains. That means, if someone invades Russia again, the boots will be useful.
  • Shinel (greatcoat). Russian military is one of the last ones still using greatcoats, since they are somewhat practical during winter. Attempts to introduce more high-tech, light, winterized uniforms so far resulted in pneumonias and frostbites, largely from their improper applications by the undertrained officers too entrenched in the old ways.
  • Big, high peaked caps are associated, among other things, with Russia, despite they are a new introduction to Russian uniforms. Smaller ones, though, have a long history in the Russian military, and a similar but even smaller civilian headgear, called kartuz, is indeed part of the traditional national costume.
    • Traditional Russian military peaked cap, often seen on the heads of Tsarist (and some early Soviet, though in many cases that were the same people) officers in historical shows, lacked any stiffener and was therefore somewhat draped around its wearer's head like a beret, earning it the traditional nickname of "blin" — that is, "pancake".
      • Later Soviet caps included a circular spring around its crown to give it some shape, and the front was raised a bit. By The '80snote  it became a kind of military chic to have a cap with the widest crown and the highest front, not unlike a traditional Banana Republic Generalissimo headgear, often dubbed "the aerodrome". After USSR fell, this look somehow got codified in the uniform regs, giving The New Russia the association with the Commissar Cap. Ironically, by the same time their wearers has noted the Sukhomlinov Effect in action (frankly, the caps started to look ridiculous) and begun a backlash against them, derisively naming them "Pinochet's hats", and throttling down on size and trim. In fact, the modern field and undress uniforms don't include a peaked cap at all, eschewing it in favor of a simple kepi or a beret, and since Shoigu came to the MoD, he brought an EMERCOM cap, clearly based on a Tsarist-era design, with him.