History of the Russian army striped shirts
What does the telnyashka rapresent
The white and blue russian striped shirt called telnyashka (in Russian тельня́шка) has been an important symbol for the Russian navy, since its introduction
Russian sailors came in contact with European striped shirts such as the breton shirt and traditional Dutch flannel sailor shirts around 1865.
Breton sailors wore knit shirts with 12 horizontal black stripes, mimicking ribs to make them look like skeletons and cheat death at sea.
From these vests derives the marinière used by the French Navy since the 27th March 1858 decree stating:
Le corps de la chemise devra compter 21 rayures blanches, chacune deux fois plus large que les 20 à 21 rayures bleu indigo.
The body shall have 21 white stripes, each twice as wide as the 20 or 21 navy blue stripes
Dutch vests inspired by these new french adoptions, and applied a low cut neck for faster removal; in the event of overboarding, a sailor lost at sea could quickly remove his shirt and wave it like a signal flag.
These exotic garments were more practical, comfortable, did not hold down movements, and protected from the cold better than the standard issue vests offered to Russian sailors.
For this reason, after long missions at sea, the most experienced members of the crew would get one of these vests as an award.
Sailors themselves knit, repaired and modified their own vests vests in their spare time on board.
Privates were allowed to wear a telnyashka only during the weekend and at formal events
During a frigate crew inspection in 1868, the Grand Duke and Admiral Konstantin Nikolayevich Romanov was welcomed by a crew completely dressed in these breton sailor shirts, bought from European merchants.
Sailors and staff complimented the convenience of these European shirts: as opposed to the plain white standard issue vest issued at the time, these foreign horizontal striped shirts did not feature a stiff army collar, and their comfortable shape guaranteed more freedom of movement during manouvers.
The stripes come in useful, giving better contrast against white sails and the sky than the plain white standard issue shirts, thanks to this optical effect now crew members are more visible during ship servicing.
These navy blue striped shirts also make crew members more visible should they fall off the boat, making it easier for the rescue team to identify the lost sailor.
Finally, the blue stripes on those vests are the same blue of the St. Andrew's cross featured on the Андреевский флаг, the symbol of the Russian Navy.
The praise from the privates was so strong that on the 19th of August 1874, Grand Duke Romanov pushed Tsar Alexander II to sign the "Provision on the allowance of the Maritime Administration teams for ammunition and uniforms" (нижних чинов кораблей и флотских экипажей) decree stating:
A shirt knitted from wool in half with cotton; the color of the shirt is white with blue horizontal stripes, one at a distance from each other of 4.445 centimeters. The width of the blue bars is of 1/4 of a вершо́к (1.1 cm) and the total weight of the shirt is at least of 80 spools (344 grams)
Because of these decrees, telnyashkas were adopted as an official part of the Russian Navy uniform, and the 19th of August is the national Russian Telnyashka day; this anniversary is celebrated by armed forces, veterans and supportive members of the general public - especially in St. Petersburg.
In 1866 German industrialist Friedrich Wilheim Kersten bought a small hosiery manufactory from Ivan Ospowitsch Natus, brought textile machinery from Germany and rebranded the company as Kersten Factory ("Фабрика Керстена" in Russian); the Kersten Factory begins producing the first telnyashkas runs on behalf of the Russian Navy, and in 1870 the owner is proclaimed honorary citizen of St. Petersburg for his contibution to Russian industrialization.
A new decree in 1912 redefined both stripes to be at the same width of 1.1 centimeters, measurements which are still respected today; moreover, production of 100% cotton telnyashkas begins to offer products that are more suitable for use during the summer and in conditions that do not require as much insulation from the elements.
During World War 2 the Axis Powers got to know the striped devils, russian soldiers wearing a Telnyashka. Famous sniper Vasily Zaytsev from the Uraal region volounteered to become a sniper in Stalingrad and help beat Germany.
After 40 confirmed kills just in the first 10 days of service, Vasiliy is sent totrain other snipers to adopt his original shoot and scoot technique.
He would set up a temporary hidden shelter in a safe for himself and his spotter Nikolay Kulikov, and change his position after every couple of confirmed kills. This hide and sting technique is known as "the sixes" and if 2 more couples of sniper-spotter are added and deployed at different locations it can cover an enormous field of action.
Because of his Navy past, Vasily would insist on wearing his telnyashka even as a sniper, sure that it will protect him from cold and bullets.
In 1983, by the end of the USSR era, a new standard for "Jerseys and knit sea shirts for military personnel" (Фуфайки и майки трикотажные морские для военнослужащих), known as GOST 25904-83, clarifies the qualities that telnyashkas producers need to follow in order to sell goods to the Navy. This standard is still followed 35 years after by our company, and the quality of our telnyashkas show.