Russians rarely wear those fur-lined, ear-flapped winter caps known to Americans as “Trapper Hats” – they’re actually ushankas –unless they’re in uniform or on watch. The hats, which are bulk ordered by the Russian government to exact specifications dictated by Soviet-era laws, are considered a perk of military life. Wearing them without an AK-47 or a bit of brocade on your shoulder is a fashion faux pas – if you’re a local anyway.
“In Red Square, if you see a person wearing one they are probably a foreigner,” says Dmitri Naginsky, a Moscow-based Ushanka dealer who exports hats from factories in Western Russia and Belarus to upstate New York. “Regular Russian people would be worried about looking official.”
Fortunately, Russian mores haven’t stopped Naginksy’s online hat store from doing a brisk business in fur and faux furry headgear. His ushankas, which are slightly roomier and easy to tie under the chin than military models, are the perfect compliment to a hunting jacket or flannel shirt, especially when the barometer drops to Siberian temperatures. Unlike most Ushankas, which are sold as novelty items, his are the real deal, wrapped in sheepskin, lamb fur, and water-resistant cotton – warm enough to keep his Syracuse-based partner from freezing. “There is a lot of Russian Army surplus gear,” Naginsky explains, “but Americans want the Ushankas. They’re warm.”
And if it makes us look a bit more official, all the better. [Ushanks from $35; ushanka.com]