An ushanka (Russian: уша́нка, IPA: [ʊˈʂankə], lit. ’ear flap hat’), also called an ushanka-hat (Russian: ша́пка-уша́нка, IPA: [ˈʂapkə ʊˈʂankə]), is a Russian fur cap with ear covering flaps that can be tied up to the crown of the cap, or fastened at the chin to protect the ears, jaw, and lower chin from the cold.
An alternative is to bend the flaps back and tie them behind the head, which is called “ski-style” — this offers less protection from the elements, but much better visibility, essential for high-speed skiing. The dense fur also offers some protection against blunt impacts to the head. They are also traditionally worn in the Baltic region including Sweden and Finland.
The word ushanka derives from ushi (у́ши), “ears” in Russian and many Slavic languages. Trapper hats are “a sort of hybrid between the aviator cap and the ushanka—they combine the style of the former with the furriness of the latter”. They are considered more casual than the military-derived ushanka.
Identified with Soviet rule and issued in all Warsaw Pact armies, the ushanka has since become a part of the winter uniform for military and police forces in Canada and other Western countries with a cold winter. Gray (American civilian police), green (for camouflage), blue (police, United States Post Office) and black versions are in current usage.
In 2013, the Russian army announced that the ushanka was being replaced by new headgear, which is essentially the same ushanka with a rounder crown and small sealable openings in the flaps for wearing headphones.
What is Ushanka made of?
Ushankas are often made from inexpensive sheepskin (tsigeyka), rabbit, or muskrat fur. Artificial fur hats are also manufactured and are referred to as “fish fur” since the material is not from any real animal. The simplest “fish fur” of ushankas was made of a wool pile with cloth substrate and cloth top, with the exception of the flaps, which had the pile exposed. Mink fur ushankas are widely used in the Arctic regions of Russia, protecting the ears and chin of the wearer even from “deep frost”, which is around −70 to −40 °C (−94 to −40 °F).