I think you have already seen how Middleton girls look in furry a la cossack hats. Today we will get deeper into the high fashion of Cossacks, or just any level of fashion. Just look at the latest autumn and winter clothing collections. Famous designers are just crazy about fur and eastern clothing history. From Kuban hats to burka overcoats. Elements of Russian clothing and traditions reach the western world. Therefore cossack fashion might be the western fashion. 

A short history lesson: Cossacks “are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who became known as members of democratic, semi-military communities”. They inhabited  Ukraine and in Southern Russia areas in 13th century. 

©Photo Credit: -JFK63 via Compfight cc

©Photo Credit: -JFK63 via Compfight cc

What if I told you that the biggest fashion designers like Ralph Lauren, Simon Kneen, Manolo Blahnik, and Anastasia Romantsova advises us to wear cossack hats, burka overcoats and Kubans. They prefer real and genuine fur instead of fake imitations. Today we gonna look at few visual examples of Cossack outfit high fashion. How Ralph Lauren and Anastasia Romantsova represent eastern culture through their Haute coutur.

Historically and culturally Cossack hat was the most important head warmer in the eastern part of the world, of course the hat has a different name-Papakha. Why we prefer Cossack name instead of Papakha? “Free people” who served on the Russian border were called Cossacks. The were situated near Dnieper, Don, Terek and Ural rivers. They were living in harsh and cold conditions. These free people didn’t have their own cultural and national costume. How did they manage to form such long lasting image? Researchers, archaeologists and historians found out hat “free people” near Russian borders wore peasant, runaway serf clothes. Those runaways are thought to be refuges among Cossacks.  However, Cossacks never dared to remove clothes from the slain. For them such action would be dishonorable.

©Photo Credit: Alu_Segova via Compfight cc

©Photo Credit: Alu_Segova via Compfight cc

A short Cossack wardrobe lesson: 

How to recognize a Cossack? Cossack hats, or Papakhas are not the only element of “free people” costume. The Zaporozhye Cossack usually wore cloth trousers, smock and kaftan.  In other words papakha is a tall hat made from sheepskin and a cloth base. While kaftan is a knee-lengh outer garment. It should be fastened tightly at the chest with buttons. You might notice a gentle flare towards the bottom. Traditionally cloth trousers should be worn on top of linen underpants that are called spodniki.  Onto trouser they fastened a small pouch so that they could keep their money safe. The belt called gashnika hold  tightly the entire outfit. Later Kaftan ( collarless open-breasted overdress ) was turned into a traditional costume of Don and Ural Cossacks.   In 19th century they modeled military uniform by tightening kaftan with hooks and eyes. When army began to use firearms, The Caucasus, Kuban and Terek Cossacks sewed a special cartage belt onto their kaftan. Thus it was much easier for cavalrymen to fight in battles. In the same 19th century Cossacks began to wear cherkeska ( Circassion coat).

©tsar Nicholas Cossacks

©tsar Nicholas Cossacks

©Cossack forelock

©Cossack forelock

However, no true Cossack would leave his hat unattended. It would be dishonorable. Thus Cossak hats are a token of their traditions. They also had some hat doffing rule, for example a younger Cossack had to remove his papakha in the presence of the older.  Why highs of such hats varied? If Cossack had a title of Ataman ( the chief) his hat would be taller when the rest of his teams.  If they got a Cossack uniform, they wore it for life. These people were superstitious and fussy about their uniforms and how they should be worn. For instance,  they had to wear forelocks on the left side of the head. Why is that so? All Cossack army men shaved their head almost completely, but they had to leave only one long lock of hair. There was a deeper meaning in all of this. They thought that an angel sat on their right shoulder, while the devil on the left. Thus with a hair forelock they brushed the devil off.  If a Cossack somehow lost his  forelock, it was a sing of dishonor. If Cossack killed a man, he went to hell, but because he did so out of love for his homeland, the Lord pulled him out  by that forelock.

Before looking at high fashion and how it was influenced by Cossack traditions, there is one last attribute of such culture. They all wore a silver earrings int the crescent shape.  However, one had to “gain” his right to wear such attribute. If a Cossack had a different social status, it was vital to mark him with such earning. If an earring was pierced on the left, it meant that this man is the only son in his family. If the piercing was on the right, this Cossack was the last standing man in his entire family. Just like Cossack hats and forelocks earrings were some sort of talismans. Also as a sing of religious protection they stitched an icon, or a crucifix into the lining of their hats.

©Cossack earring

©Cossack earring

Enough about history let’s talk fashion. Nowadays it’s so easy to find the shop that specializes in Cossack clothing. If you are looking for Cossack hats, just search for online shopping stores. Some may find Cossack clothing only appropriate as a performance costumes. However, in high fashion famous designers find the way how to recreate Cossack clothing. Just look at Raph Lauren’s and Anastasia Romantsov’s collections. Of course their choices aren’t authentic, they use fur instead of sheepskin.  Thus these examples are merely an interpretations of Cossack  and Eastern clothing traditions. Just like Romantsova, this is A La Cossack fashion.

 Ralph Lauren 

Ralph Lauren once again goes on a geographic journey through history.  In this 2013 collection Lauren was inspired by militaristic themes. In a luxurious sense he managed to recreate the feminine Cossack look.  Dark velvet dresses, grey and blue shades.  He was definitely inspired by Cossacks. It’s not surprising that models wore some sort of Cossack hats, or Ushankas  on the runaway. He also chose a velvet Cossack pats and tucked them into trendy boots.

 Anastasia Romantsova

Anastasia is  A LA RUSSE brand creator and so as a famous designer.  She talks about Russian fashion in a very western way. I think her visual and Russian spirit collections speaks louder than words.I will leave you with her  Fall-Winter 2013/2014 in Paris collection. Can you sense the spirit of Cassock courage?