Valenki or Russian felt boots

Valenki or Russian felt boots

The Valenki or Russian felt boots (high felt boots made of sheep wool) are the warmest winter shoes and an ancient tradition that has a mark on the history of the nation.

What are Valenki or Russian felt boots?

Valenki are one of the symbols of Russian culture; for several centuries, they have been an important and inseparable part of the costumes of the Russian population in their different social classes, in addition, they retained their appearance, meaning and originality, became fashionable in footwear, and even in exquisite objects of haute couture and art.

The improvement of shape and color; innovations in decorative techniques and design details are the moderna trends in the field of production of felt footwear.

History of felt boots

Origins

The history of felt boots begins in the fourth century BC-according to archaeological studies, it can be traced back to that time of history as the period of the appearance of this part of the clothing made of wool; studies were based on analyzing the remains discovered in Altai during the excavations of the burial mound of Pazyryk.

The peoples who lived in this far Eastern region covered yurts (housing used by nomads) with wool and made hats and clothes also from wool.

Costume historians believe that it was nomadic peoples who also invented felt shoes or as we call them in Russia: Valenki, and during the Mongol-Tatar yoke, felt boots appeared in Russian towns and cities.

The Valenki or Russian felt boots in the imperial era

Until the nineteenth century, felt boots were made by hand, they were expensive so that they couldn’t be acquired by the lower classes of the population.

To produce the best boots of felt, master craftsmen mixed soap with wool, soda, and added a weak solution of sulphuric acid, the manufacturing process of these shoes in by hands was a hard work and lengthy; as a result, the felt boots were very expensive and are considered as an acquisition valuable; therefore were not within the reach of anyone, at those times often wore in the royal palace; Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and the empress Anna Ioannovna loved to use them.

The Valenki in the industrial age

Industrial felt boots began to be produced only during and after the nineteenth century when the first factories of felt laminate appeared in Russia; thanks to which these shoes became more popular, both in the city and in the countryside.

In the nineteenth century, Europe became acquainted with the felt boots, when they were carried to the first international exhibition in London, where the traditional footwear aroused a great interest among the audience, have also been exhibited in international exhibitions in Vienna, Chicago, and Paris and received gold and silver medals in all the contests.

Characteristics of felt boots!

Since the felt boots are made exclusively of sheep wool; which is essentially characterized by its soft touch and warmth, the result is very warm boots compared to ordinary boots.

Wool fibers have a flaky top layer; so they adhere to each other when exposed to hot water and steam, when using the resulting material, the boots become like a kind of sponge absorb moisture, leaving the feet dry and hot and when exposed to the sun or heat, will evaporate moisture, hence the comfort of using them since they do not cause cold in winter or heat in summer.

Curiosities 

Four museums of felt boots have been opened in Russia: in Moscow, Myshkin, Kineshma and the Mordovian village of Urusovo. 

The world’s tallest felt boot was made in St. Petersburg and its height was 6 meters; the artist has been creating it for a whole year and spent 300 kilograms of sheep wool in its composition. The assembly of such artwork lasted three days and was assembled from parts directly on the embankment, the monument had an entrance from the back, up to three people could be inside.

Fashion houses have played an important role and footwear of past centuries has become popular in moderna.

It should be remembered that felt boots are one of the options for a gift from Russia; warm and comfortable traditional shoes that can be worn, in Moscow; as in other cities, a tourist can buy felt boots for every taste, with different colors and embroidery.

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