Ushanka

Ushanka

An ushanka (уша́нка) is a Russian fur cap with ear flaps that can be tied up to the crown of the cap, or tied at the chin to protect the ears from the cold. In the English-speaking world, it is referred to as a shapka (шáпкa), from the Russian language word for "hat". Ushanka literally translates as "ear-flaps hat", from "ushi" (у́ши), "ears" in Russian.

Though ushankas are a distinctly Russian hat (indeed, the stereotypical Russian is seen to wear one) the wearing of fur caps of similar design was relatively common throughout China, North Korea, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Ushankas are also seen in American cities during cold winter months, especially in cities that have a sizeable East European immigrant population. Ushankas are common part of the winter uniforms of police forces and militaries in countries with cold climates, such as Russia and Poland.

Ushankas are often made from cheap sheepskin (tsigeyka, Цигейка), rabbit or muskrat fur, though artificial fur hats are also manufactured. Artificial fur has sometimes been referred to as "fish fur" since the material has no relation to any real fur. The simplest "fish fur" of ushankas was made of wool pile with cloth substrate and cloth top, with the exception of flaps, in which pile was exposed.

Among Russian middle class, ushankas are often made from more expensive furs like arctic fox or mink. These hats are often made purely for appearance, their ear flaps a sewn-on decoration, rather than functional element (also called "Obmanka" ).

In 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union came the first wave of commercially imported Russian winter hats into the United States. Due to their warmth, the hats are beginning to receive some user adoption in the States. They are sometimes referred to in a slang context as "Boris" hats and "Cossack Flaps".

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