Category: "Clothing"

Носить (часть первая)

by Don  

One way to say “to wear” in Russian in the sense of “to wear clothing” is носить/поносить. Note the consonant mutation in the я form:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive носить поносить
Past носил
Present ношу
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду носить
будешь носить
будет носить
будем носить
будете носить
будут носить
Imperative носи(те) поноси(те)

The imperfective verb can mean either “to wear regularly” or “to wear over a long period of time”; it is not usually used to ask about what someone is wearing today or at the moment.

— Почему она каждый день носит синюю юбку и белую блузку?
— Тише, не огорчай её. У неё почти нет денег, и таким образом она всегда аккуратненько выглядит. За это её надо уважать.
“Why does she always wear the blue skirt and white blouse?”
“Hush, don't embarrass her. She hardly has any money and this way she always looks sharp. You've got to respect her for that.”
Какая она угрюмая! Каждый день она носит только чёрное. She is so gloomy. Every day she wears nothing but black.

The perfective verb means “to wear something for a while”:

Синюю кофту бери, а зеленую я еще поношу… ¹ You take this navy blue blouse, but I'm going to keep on wearing the green one for a while…
Брат дал мне поносить шерстяной свитер. My brother let me wear his wool sweater for a while.

¹ From Иностранка by Sergei Dovlatov. I love Dovlatov. He was one of the few writers of the Soviet era who wrote with humor. I actually wrote a paper about him once—not a very good one—and delivered it at a conference which he was attending. He stuck his head in the door… but he left when he realized I was speaking in English. We chatted afterwards for a few minutes. Alas, he died before I had another opportunity to get to know him better.


by Don  

Heaven knows why, but the other day I took an online Russian test and was dismayed to discover that I didn't know the Russian word for hairpin. You may wonder why I was dismayed. After all, why does a foreign man need to know that word when he is never going to wear one in his hair? But the way I figure it, some day I might be thrown into a Russian prison and have to macgyver my way out of there. Who knows what tools I might have to use in the process? So “hairpin” is a perfectly sensible word for me to know. By the way, it turns out to be шпилька, and the genitive plural is шпилек. Sample sentences:

Мои волосы сегодня просто не хотели порядочно лежать. Пришлось воспользоваться шпильками. My hair just didn't want to behave this morning. I had to use bobby pins.
В прошлом году меня бросили в тюрьму в Крыму. Я открыл замок камеры шпилькой и прятался три дня в гнилом болоте, пока за мной не прилетел вертолёт, который меня доставил в Женеву. Last year I was thrown into a prison in the Crimea. I opened the lock of my cell with a hairpin and hid for three days in a putrid swamp until a helicopter flew in to retrieve me and return me to Geneva.
Photo of hairpins, high-heeled shoes, and a girl band
Types of шпильки

Шпилька actually has a dozen other meanings as well. For instance, it is sometimes used to mean cotter pins, which is not too surprising considering their shape, as well as other cylindrical items that hold metalwork together. It also means stiletto in the sense of a tall thin heel on a high-heeled show. From that it's not surprising that a girl-band took on the name Шпильки “The Stilettoes.” And it can also be used to mean a jibe/dig/snide comment:

— Как я рада тебя видеть, доченька! Хотя твои волосы вчера шли тебе гораздо лучше, чем сегодня.
— Мама, ты всегда хочешь везде шпильки вставить.
“It's so good to see you, my darling daughter! Although your hair yesterday suited you a lot better than today.”
“Mama, why do you always have to say mean things like that?”


by Timur  

The Russian word галстук is simply translated as tie. It refers to the basic necktie men, and sometimes women, wear to work and does not have any other meanings. But if you add the word бабочка (butterfly) after it, you get a bowtie. To say that you need to tie a tie, use the verb завязать (tie) before галстук.


Image from

Ippolit "Kisa" Vorobyaninov, the grouchy, misanthropic and often very confused character of the "The Twelve Chairs," donning a галстук.

Here are some example sentences with the word галстук:

Mария, помоги мне завязать этот галстук, а то я опять опоздaю на работу. Maria, help me tie this tie, or I’ll be late for work again.
Mоя жена подарила мне шелковый галстук на мой день рождения. My wife gave me with a silk tie for my birthday.
Ларри Кинг никогда не носит один и тот же галстук дважды. Larry King never wears the same tie twice.
Hа свадьбе все мужчины будут в смокингах, так что тебе нужен галстук-бабочка. All the men at the wedding will be in tuxedos, so you’ll need a bowtie.


by Timur  

One of the most important and valued items in a Russian’s wardrobe has been the warm, soft and heavy sheepskin/lambskin coat known simply as дублёнка. Russians have always prized this particular garment very highly because it can keep one cozy on cold Russian nights, when the icy, piercing northern winds raise sweeping blizzards. And more importantly... because it costs some serious rubles. But fortunately, once you buy a quality дублёнка, whether it’s out of basic sheepskin, lambskin or the lavish shearling, it can serve you for half a lifetime. When I think of a дублёнка, the first thing that came to my mind is my grandfather’s old, rugged sheepskin coat that he has had since the early seventies and still wears today when out in the snowy countryside. Overall, sheepskin coats remain quite popular with men and women alike.


Photo of Sheepskin Coat
Image from

A hefty дублёнка worn by Vasily Alibabayevich, a character from the famous Russian comedy "Gentlemen of Fortune."

Here are some example sentences with the word:

Cкоро зима, нам надо будет достать твою дублёнку. Winter is coming, we’ll need to take out your sheepskin coat.
Любая хорошая дублёнка может стоить очень дорого. Any quality sheepskin coat can cost a lot of money.
Hикита, сейчас же лето, зачем ты вышел на улицу в своей огромной дублёнке? Nikita, it’s summertime. Why did you go outside in your huge sheepskin coat?
Cледователь сказал, что подозреваемый забыл свою коричневую дублёнку на месте преступления. The investigator said that the suspect forgot his brown sheepskin coat at the crime scene.


by Timur  

The Russian word for glasses or spectacles is очки. Here are some example sentences:

Врач сказал, что я плохо вижу и должен носить очки. The doctor said that I have bad vision and should be wearing glasses.
Дед имеет четыре пары очков. Grandfather owns four pairs of glasses.
Маша хорошо видит, но иногда носит очки — наверное, потому, что ей нравится, кaк они на ней смотрятся. Masha has good vision, but sometimes she wears glasses. Probably because she likes the way they look on her.

When talking about sunglasses, you have to add the adjective солнечные (sun, solar) in front of glasses. So the word sunglasses is translated as солнечные очки. Once in a while someone might say солнцезащитные очки, meaning anti-sun or sun-protective glasses. Fortunately this tough word combination is not as popular as the simpler солнечные очки. Examples:

На пляже многие люди носят солнечные очки. At the beach many people wear sunglasses.
Он надел свои солнечные очки, как только солнце вышло из-за облаков. He put on his sunglasses as soon as the sun came out of the clouds.

In English the word goggles is used to describe protective eyewear, e.g., swim goggles, lab goggles, ski goggles, etc. But in Russian, they are all simply очки. Examples:

Валера, куда ты дел мои лыжные очки? Valera, where did you put my ski goggles?
Завтра тебе будут нужны лабораторные очки, профессор сказал, что мы будем работать с опасными химикатами. Tomorrow you will need lab goggles. The professor said that we will be working with dangerous chemicals.

The word очки can also mean points; очко is the singular form of the word. Example:

Сабонис забил только одно очко против нас. Sabonis scored only one point against us.

Don's additional comments: when очки means glasses or goggles, the word is only used in the plural. When it means points, it is used in both the singular and the plural.


Other phrases used for sunglasses are «тёмные очки» “dark glasses”, «очки от солнца» and occasionally «чёрные очки» “black glasses.” A Google search this morning found this distribution of hits:

очки от солнца 8,740,000
солнцезащитные очки 578,000
солнечные очки 226,000
тёмные очки 164,000
чёрные очки 41,000

With those numbers you can be pretty sure that all five forms are acceptable. It's possible that the distribution of numbers relects the marketing of sunglasses in Russian more than the conversational use of the phrases.

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