You see them all the time in movies: fur hats that look so comfortable and warm, which every Russian character seems to wear. But how accurate is that stereotype? Let’s take a look at the country that made fur hats famous: Russia.

Fur hats have been popular in cold climates for millennia, but according to correspondent Darya Pushkova, the ushanka, or “ear-flap hat,” became an icon for the Soviet Union in the twentieth century. These hats were a mandatory part of the military uniform, due to the bitter Russian cold. Now the ushanka is part of the winter military uniform for the United States, Canada, and other Western countries. Ironically, the Russian military has changed their fur hat design to a rounder style with no flaps.


The emblems on ushankas reflect the different military groups in Russia. Photo by Guian Bolisay. cc

Fur hats became popular after the fall of the Soviet Union, which made imported fur hats available to the United States. Since then, the fashion world has grabbed hold of the ushanka for its versatility and practicality. Now there are many variations of the ushanka in the fashion world; some include earflaps, and others have the contemporary Russian round design.

Today fur hats are a popular winter fashion all over the world, but mostly in Russia, Scandinavia, Norway, and other northern European countries. From the military to the runway, these hats have become essential to the Russian wardrobe. According to Nora Fitzgerald of The New York Times, an impressive fur hat is sure to earn the respect of your fellow Russians, and it provides excellent protection against the cold. It’s a must-have for anyone visiting Russia.

Modern Russian fur hats allow wearers to choose many types of furs and styles. Fur hats can be made from mink, fox, lynx, and even rabbit fur. Rabbit hats tend to be popular for tourists because they are often cheaper, but they will rarely impress a Russian. The styles of hats range small to large, and from having three flaps to none. With the wide variety, there’s a fur hat for everyone to fall in love with.

White ushanka

The strings that tie together the earflaps of the ushanka originally came from Scandinavia in the 19th Century. Photo by Petar Milošević. cc

But where do you get these hats? For tourists, try markets, vendor stalls, and department stores. If you’re traveling to St. Petersburg, there are many places to visit and browse for hats. The Gostiny Dvor department store houses various hat shops. If you’re looking for a market easily accessible to tourists, the Rynok Suvenirov is one of the more famous markets, known for friendly and hospitable English-speaking vendors.

If your travels take you to Moscow, there are wonderful boutiques and markets that sell fur hats. For a one-of-a-kind hat, visit the boutique of fashion design: Irina Tantsurina Russian Traditions. Street markets like the Red Square Market and the Izmailovo Market offer cheaper fur hats; however, the quality of their hats is more dubious, and the customer may not know where the fur came from.

So whether you are looking for a fantastic souvenir to bring home from Russia or something new to wear for winter, a Russian fur ushanka could be a great addition to your wardrobe.

—Heather Moon