The great Russian aristocrats have clothes!

“The tsar said it, the Boyars did it”- Russian saying

The boyars were the nobility of Russia and held considerable power. The clothes the boyars wore represented their power, religion, and Russian culture. The boyars adapted much of their dress and culture from the Byzantines during the medieval period. The customs and clothes they wore also became a representation of their Orthodox faith. Additionally, the clothes the boyars wore, such as the glorlatnyi, tall hat, represented their power. The Boyars experienced an attack on their clothes and customs when Tsar Peter the Great came to power and instituted a series of reforms designed to westernize Russia.

Gorlatnyi, feriaz, and sarafan! Oh my!

  • The gorlatnyi is a "neck" hat. It is a tall cylinder hat made of neck fur from black foxes or other expensive fur. The gorylatnyi is protected by its owner, and even has a special place in the home where it sits on the wooden stand that often has been beautifully decorated.
  • The feriaz was a formal outer coat. It provided important protection from the cold weather of Russia, but more importantly it was made of expensive fabrics with intricate embroidery and precious stones. The sleeves were long and broad and could be tied back. The coats often weighed up to 45 pounds.
  • The sarafanet was a male dress consisting of a long, narrow opened-out garment with sleeves. The sarafan made up the main part of the garment, it was a long sleeveless garment worn over a shirt. The nobility wore sarafans made of velvet or silk.

Gorlatnyi, Feriaz, and Sarafan aren't complete without a beard!

“Shaving the beard is a sin the blood of all martyrs will not wash away. It would mean blemishing the image of man as God created him.”-Ivan the Terrible

The Russians adopted Christianity from the Eastern Orthodox and their dress reflected those changes.

Chief among these reflections would be the beard. The beard was as much a sign of being a boyar and Russian as it was of being a dutiful and submissive Christian.

And then the 6'8 Peter the Great Arrived!

Peter the Great wanted to modernize Russia and push her into competition with Western Europe. He enacted 17 reforms that specifically dealt with the dress of the Russian people. While some of these reforms dealt with the peasants, Peter the Great had more focus on the people who made up his inner circle and whom he dealt with on a regular basis. The most hated of all the reforms was the "shaving" of beards. The noblemen and priests felt they had been forced to sin against God and put up such a fight, that a heavy beard tax was put in place as an alternative to shaving. Individuals who paid the tax were given gold coins as a recognition of the their paid tax. (Priests and deacons were exempt from shaving their beards)


"Russia Engages the World - NYPL." Russia Engages the World - NYPL. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.

"Russia: History of Dress." LoveToKnow. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.

"The Time Peter the Great Declared War on Facial Hair." Mental Floss. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.