National men clothing in Georgia
If you want a glimpse of Georgian history, you should learn about Georgian traditional clothing.
When you ask the average Georgian to imagine the traditional Georgian man, in all likelihood he thinks of a warrior wearing a ‘Chokha’. A Chokha is a woolen coat and it’s a traditional Caucasian men’s costume consisting of an undershirt, underpants and wide trousers. In Georgia this garment became widespread in the 9th century but the details of it varied slightly in the different regions of Georgia. Notably, highlanders wore a Chokha that was shorter than the one used among lowlanders. In mountainous places such coats allowed men to move quickly and comfortably. Having said that, every Chokha had bandoliers on both sides of the chest holding bullets and gunpowder.
Georgian men had many roles. They were the head of family, a warrior and a farmer at the same time, so his costume wasn’t complete without weapons like a sword. In the past the richer the man was, the better his weapons were, whereas nowadays they are purely ornamental. All in all, the centuries-old Chokha is in fashion at the moment. Particularly, in today’s Georgia it has become more and more popular to sport the garment at religious ceremonies like weddings and funerals and at political events.
In some mountainous places both men and women wore a kind of dress called ‘Talavari’. Not only was it comfortable and durable, but it also had eye-catching details. Interestingly, the decoration of Talavari was so full with cross-type decorations that scientists casted doubt on its origins – they supposed that crusaders were the ancestors of Khevsurian people, but later researches ran counter to this idea and, fortunately, Talavari was recognized as an old traditional Georgian dress.
With regards to footwear, to make a long story short, valley-dwellers wore high leather boots called ‘Tsaghi’, but in mountainous parts of Georgia flat-heeled boots were preferred with long embroidered socks.
You can learn a lot from a close look at the Georgian headdress because it shows the characteristics of the whole Georgian nation. It is considered as a sign of conscience, courage, commitment and power of Georgian men. Thus, the phrase “you are wearing a golden hat” was the best compliment a person could receive. Conversely, an offender was criticized for “having dropped a hat” when committing a crime.
With this in mind, what does a Georgian hat look like for you? Small or big? Round or pointed? Surprisingly, your answer is correct no matter what you say, since each region of Georgia has their own unique headgear.
Svanuri Kudi originated in the western Georgian region of Svaneti. Unlike other headwear, it is worn in every season. In addition, Svanuri Kudi comes in different colours which all have different meanings. Black signifies the underworld and tough times. A white hat embodies heaven and happiness. But in general, laymen in Svaneti wear grey hats to express that he is aware of both sides of life. As a matter of fact, a cross is embroidered on every hat in such a way that you inevitably touch it when taking it off. The impact of the Orthodox Church on clothing is obvious.
Interestingly, both men and women choose to wear Kabalakhi in south-west Georgia. Kabalakhi has a slightly pointed hood with either long or short branches that enabled people to adapt and accessorize the hat to suit their own personal taste.
Anyway, the Phaphakhi is recognized as the most stunning thing when looking at a portrait of a Georgian man. It is a big hat made of sheep skin which was typically worn in the mountainous regions of eastern Georgia. Every tourist is tempted to try on this hat because it’s very attractive and it puts you in the shepherd’s shoes. What’s more, the experience is so overwhelming that you feel like you are ready to guide a flock of sheep and conquer mountains, but after taking it off, all you’ll be left with is a funny photo.
Although, we don’t have an official national holiday celebrating national clothes, last year some Georgians celebrated it together by marching from Mtskheta (Old capital city of Georgia) to Tbilisi in stunning Georgian dresses.
It is the love and respect towards the traditional clothes that ignite a passion in the hearts of all Georgian people. You can be sure that each detail on traditional garments represents different aspects of the Georgian lifestyle from throughout history.