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Red boots – a passionate element of the Ukrainian costume

Posted on January 23 2018

When we fancy a Ukrainian female, we recollect an embroidered shirt and skirt, traditional headwear different for a girl and a married woman. However, this image would be incomplete without red boots – sapyantsi. They are made of thin soft leather (sheep, veal, foal). The Ukrainian word 'sapyan' originates from the Persian ‘saxt’ meaning ‘sturdy’. Sapyantsi could be of different colours extracted from various plants: yellow, green but most often red.

This is something a Ukrainian girl could not really do without. It was an attribute of mostly rich people and an item any female could be proud of in Ukraine. The poor saved for long and sacrificed much to have this cherished element of their outfit, at least a single pair for the whole family. They wore them for any festive occasion, fair and just to show off. 

red shoes

Red leather boots – an essential attribute of the national culture

There were lots of customs related to this footwear. Do you think a Ukrainian male made a proposal with an engagement ring? Actually not:) He presented his special one with leather boots! That meant he was serious about her. What is more, a fiancé should give his future mother-in-law such footwear, too. He united two families in such a way.

Males wore it as well. There was an interesting wedding custom in the Volyn region: a bride took boots off her bridegroom, beat him with them symbolically activating his masculine power and fertility and then threw to the threshold to ‘bribe’ the house spirit (domovoy).

Ukrainian national costume for women.

Ukrainian national costume

Red footwear as a national symbol: what does it imply

Red traditionally means passion and love. It has protective qualities as well to tackle with the evil eye. At weddings, this symbol is related to viburnum rendering the bride’s virginity.

In the case with this particular footwear, it reveals fashion, wealth, and a good taste and was a must-have for every girl. It is not by chance that Gogol’s Oksana ordered Vakula to bring her red shoes like the Tsarina had.

They are loved so much that they are celebrated even in the Ukrainian folklore. One can see that even fashion following animals necessarily wore such footwear as well: foxes, cuckoos, and others. Children books and cartoons are illustrated like that.

Screen shot from Ukrainian movie "Vechoty na hutori blyz' Dykan'ky"

Modern red leather shoes and boots: an always trendy element of a female outfit

With some difference in design, they survive the times. The red colour is still popular and perfectly combines glamour tendencies and the symbolic meaning of the past. It is said, we should remember the past for the sake of the future.

Related to fashion, the past can always give some interesting ideas to utilize nowadays as well.


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