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Cheres - Men's Hutsul belt

Cheres belts come in different shapes and sizes, ranging from 1 to 6 buckles. These belts were made from a single piece of smooth cowhide, bent in half lengthwise so that the bend was at the bottom. It was sewed together on top, only leaving the spaces where pockets were formed, used to store bullets and coins. Cheres belts ranged from 20 to 45 cm in width. When the belts were this big, small cutouts often had to be made under the arms, to prevent chafing!!!

Since cheres belts were often quite heavy, brass chains, thrown over the shoulders, were used to support the weight. The belt was secured in the front with leather straps with buckles on them. For decorating the belts craftsmen used puckered skin, bronze chains, locally made Hutsul buttons called "tsitochky", "sequins" made from multicolored ribbons etc. Rings, short chains and hooks were also often attached to cheres belts to carry "rekityazi" (wallets), tobacco pipe ‘accessories’ and other small items. If one had a broad belt (with four to six buckles) they could also carry a "suhak" - a device for undoing knots, a "bhanyy" (folding) knife and a small metal ax, called ‘topirets’.

Cheres was worn over a shirt and trousers, it not only protected the body in potential fights, but also strengthened the core muscles during hard labor, like that of rafters, who transported wood down mountain rivers, or shepherds, who had to travel for miles through the mountains, moving herds of sheep. And last but not least, cheres served a powerful talisman and a decoration. It was a festive element of traditional clothes, the pride of every man. It emphasized a man’s virility and courage. Hutsuls believed that a young man only truly became a real man when his father gifted him a cheres belt for his birthday. These were also considered family heirloom and handed down from generation to generation.

Other names of cheres are known in the Carpathians, including ‘popruha’, ‘bukuriya’ or ‘bayur’. Similar belts were also worn by the Chumaky, who transported salt across the country. There’s a theory that this was exactly how this ‘fashion’ traveled from Hutsulschyna to the very East of Ukraine and the Zaporizhian Kozaks. They wore thick belts, tightly wrapped around the torso, protecting them from injury, and serving as Bandolier.

Since the ancient times, people considered cheres to be a magic talisman, bringing well-being and success to the holder. Hutsuls also have many sayings and beliefs linked to this object. It was believed that in the Spring when shepherds first took their herd out into the fields, it was good to have them all run across the belt laid on the ground – that way they would be spared from animal attacks and have offsprings. There was also a tradition to bury children girded with a red belt, it was intended to protect them from evil spirits, and allowed them to be safely reborn. An interesting fact is that in India a red belt was also a symbol of the "second birth" or reincarnation.

Photo Source: wwww.hutsul.museum Info Source: www.uamodna.com

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