Men's Layer 1 in Early Rus

Shirt and Trousers

Updated 23 March 2007

A simple rubakha.

A fancy rubakha.

A different rubakha.

Another fancy rubakha. (?)

Shirt: The most basic item of Russian clothing was the rubakha, a long shirt. Peasants could simply wear one coarse linen rubakha. Wealthier Rus would wear a second, more expensive rubakha over it. The rubakha reached nearly to the knees, was worn loose with trousers and always girdled with a narrow sash or belt at the waist. It was considered indecent to wear a rubakha without a belt. (Kireyeva and Stamerov)

Next-to-skin clothing. [Нательная одежда] “Rub” in the opinion of A.V. Artsikhosvkij was the all-Slavic name for the set of ordinary people’s clothing consisting of the shirt and narrow pants [рубаха, порты] (Artsikhovskij, 1948, p. 234-235). This same word indicated a piece or scrap of fabric (“rubit’ – “rvat’” [рубить, рвать]) (Sreznevskij, III, stb.184). One has to think that this is the same ancient Russian root, for the name of the next-to-skin men’s and women’s garment, rubakha, that exists up to our day. (Rabinovich, 9-13th cent.)

Rubakha, sorochitsa [рубаха, сорочица] were for many sometimes the only object of clothing. It was sewn of linen, or thin wool (tsatri [цатры] –goat fluff [козъего пуха], ascetics–monks wore even rough vasyanitsu of horse hair), for the wealthy it could be even of silk material. In cut, the ancient Russian shirt was tunic-shaped, cut of one width of fabric folded in-half. Wedge–shaped inserts widened the shirt to the hem, the rhomboid lastovitsy [ластовицы] under the arm. The sleeves were made narrow and long. The opening of the collar was round or quadrangular, with a slit either “straight” - in the middle of the chest, more rarely “slanted” - on the left or right side of the chest. Shirts with slanted openings are depicted on drawings from a Pskov manuscript of the twelfth century (on the left side of the chest) (Rabinovich, 1964, p. 114) and on an icon of the same time (on the right side of the chest) (Levashova, 1966, p. 116–117). In a kurgan near the city of Suzdal from the 13th century was a grave of a woman in a shirt with an embroidered standing collar, composed of two unequal parts (length 8 and 20cm), closing to the left, and fastened on three buttons (Saburova, 1976, p. 226–230). Here, thus, can be established the opening of the collar on the left side. The collar of the shirt was fastened on one or a few buttons, of cast bronze, bone, and probably also wood. [ I have seen wooden buttons among the archaeological finds.] (Rabinovich, 9-13th cent.)

The man’s shirt was long to the knee (sometimes even longer). They wore them untucked in, over their parents, belted with a narrow strap-belt (with metal buckles and plaques) or fabric cords (possibly with castles). The collar, hem, and edge of sleeves were decorated with embroidery (Maslova, 1978, p. 16). (Rabinovich, 9-13th cent.)

In the 13-17th cent. as next-to-skin clothing served, as in the past, the tunic-shaped shirt [rubashka] - sorochka, sorotsitsa, srachitsa. Artsikhovskij considered the main from of men's sorochka to be the kosovorotka [men's traditional blouse usually with side neck opening], but about the predominance of the kosovorotka or the rubakha with the straight neck opening in the 13-17th cent. we do not have information. One would tend to think that, as before, the slit of the collar for men was either straight or angled [kosoj]. Sometimes, the men's rubakha could be as long as the women's (especially for peasant boys, the rubakha "to the heel" could be their only garment), but for the adult male peasant they went to the knee, for city dwellers even shorter. An innovation in this period was the wearing of another upper rubakha besides the sorochka - koshulik, verkhnitsy or navershnika. With this, the sorochka was turned into proper underwear. In 1373, in describing the destruction of Torshok, the chronicle noted: "And women and maidens stripped even to the last nakedness and to the srachitsa". As evidence of men's house dress is documented "From the Bogdanovskij property of Bel'skij 2 rubashki and 2 portki of white taffeta and for all, along the seams, bands of gold and braids adn loops/buttonholes of ogld, for all on the collar 373 pearl grains." And found among excavations of the tombs of the Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich and Tsar Feodor Ivanovich in Archangel Cathedral in the Kremlin are rubashki somewaht more modest, but also embroidered (with gold for Feodor, and silk for Ivan) braid along the seams, collar, shoulder and hem. Prince Skopin-Shujskij was buried in a more luxuriously embroidered rubakha. (Rabinovich, 13-17th c.)

The rubakha was generally made of homespun unbleached linen, but that of the wealthier Rus was made of fine white linen. It was rarely colored, generally grey-blue. Silk was only seen in the holiday garb of the nobility. (Stamerov)

The rubakha was basically straight-cut, but some broadening was allowed toward the bottom by adding in side panels. They seem to have been made of narrow (32-60cm width) fabric, generally of white, blue or red. (Kireyeva)

The sleeves were long, narrow and tube-like, not uncommonly extending past the hands, presumably for warmth as necessary. These long sleeves would be held up by bracelets or with narrow cuffs called poruchiv (or simply rolled up? A zarukahya, a highly decorated removable cuff, might also be worn at the wrist. (Kireyeva and Stamerov)

The rubakha had no collar. The neck was high-cut and the opening (Kireyeva calls the opening “short” while Stamerov describes it as “rather deep”) in the center front could be closed with buttons, wooden or bone, or tied with a cord. An ozherelya, a broad removable collar extending to the shoulders, might be worn over the outer rubakha for holidays. (Kireyeva)

The rubakha could also be embroidered or trimmed with contrasting fabric. (Kireyeva)

Red was by far the preferred color for trimming the rubakha. The upper classes could afford embroidery, generally around the neck and neck slash. Peasants made do with red fabric edging at the neck opening. (Stamerov)

The linen rubakha served as "underwear" along with the linen trousers.


The other required item of male clothing was the trousers (porta?). They were worn belted with a drawstring (gashnika) and could be tucked into boots or wrapped with onuchi (cloth leg wraps). Peasants would wear coarse linen, while wealthier Rus wore finer cloth, even silk. (Kireyeva)

Pants (actually porty, gachy) [штаны vs. порты, гачи] supplemented the next to the skin clothing of men. Judging by the depictions, they were not wide, and rather clearly outlined the legs. V. P. Levashova considers that pants were cut from straight width of cloth, and in the legs were sown in lastovitsy, the waist was made wide, with out a slit, and held up with a gashnika [гашника, cord], tied around the body (Levashova, 1966, page 117). It is difficult to judge about the length of the pants inasmuch as they were worn only tucked into boot tops or leg wraps [onuchi], but clearly, they were always longer than the knee and probably did not reach the ankles. (Rabinovich, 9-13th d.)

It is possible that on the lower part of the leg already in the 10-13th centuries were worn nagolenniki, nogovitsy [наголенник, ноговица] (Sreznevskij, II, stb. 462). In any case, the Arabian traveler Ibn Fadlan noted such gaiters in the clothing of the elite Slavs buried in Bulgaria in the tenth century (Ibn Fadlan, p. 81). But evidently, as also later, nogovitsy were accessories of clothing of rich persons. Peasants and poor city dwellers wound around the shin and foot over their pants onuchi, long narrow strips of material like later puttees. Onuchi and kopyttsa [копытца], wool socks (Paterik, p. 26) were worn on the shin also by women. (Rabinovich, 9-13th c.)

The shirt, pants, nogovitsy, onuchi and kopyttsa composed the next-to-skin clothing which for the poorer levels of society were often as their only clothing: they wore them not only at home but in warm weather when working and also going out. (Rabinovich, 9-13th c.)

In the 13-17th cent., the next-to-skin clothing included also pants [porty] - narrow pants [shtany] of the same cut as the earlier period. (Rabinovich, 13-17th c.)

They were not too wide, and gradually narrowed down to the ankles. (Kireyeva)

Stamerov indicates that trousers could be layered. Peasants might only wear a single pair of linen trousers, but more prosperous Rus could wear overpants and outer leggings of wool, or even silk for the nobility. They were cut narrow and nearly straight, with a bottom diameter of nearly 20 cm (7.75 inches). Each leg was a single piece of fabric sewn only at the inseam (or to the other leg at the top) and a small gusset was inserted between the two legs. The trousers were not loosely billowing, and there were no vents, flies, or pockets. They were ankle length and always tucked into boots or onuchi. (Stamerov)

In discussing the period of the 13-17th cent. Rabinovich includes pants [shtany] amoung men's upper indoor clothing. He says that shtany under this name, and not porty, are recorded only from the 2nd half of the 17th cent. In the majority of cases, it can be established that these were fashionable upper clothing, warm, sometimes of leather or even fur. From the texts it is evident that shtany were worn by both peasants and city dwellers. However, the origin of this item is debated. The problem is that the sources sometimes use the term "nogovitsy" to mean "shtany" and designate something like gaiters. But in these cases they are speaking about lower/under shtany. Savvaitov notes that besides lower shtany are upper shtany, usually of silk, warm, quilted and fur shtany. There are also records of broadcloth and leather shtany. So this is the origin of these distinctive elegant upper shtany, while the ancient porty acquired the meaning of underwear, just like the sorochka. The cut of the shtany is not exacty known. Levinson-Nechaeva proposes that in the period existed shtany both with narrow and with wide legs. (RAbinovich, 13-17th cent.)

The linen trousers served as "underwear" along with the linen rubakha.

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