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History of Gamekeeper and Forester Uniforms - 2nd part

What did a typical forester uniform in Czechoslovakia look life?

The first uniform in Czechoslovakia took almost everything from the cut of the contemporary military uniform. We can see this on such features as the cloak, breeches, belt, hanging belt and cap. Only some elements in marking indicate that it is in fact a forester uniform.

Why was that so?

The formation of a new republic was a very significant milestone in the history of the Czech nation. This period was typical for its endeavour to ”cut itself off” from the three hundred years of darkness. Uniforms of this period express this endeavour. There was no will to preserve decorations and nobleness of the double monarchy. Whatever reminded of it, had to be changed. Forester uniforms that originated from a regulation for employees of the government forests and lands survived minor changes imposed throughout the period of the first republic, it also survived the protectorate and it was finally replaced by a new design uniform in 1950s. At that time, the forest management was divided into two branches: silvicultural and logging. With this division, two literally horrible uniform types came into existence. Their typical features were low quality material and plastic nuttons. Fortunately, they did not hold up very long and as soon as in 1960s they were replaced by new ones, of superior quality, better both aesthetically and practically. There was also a certain endeavour to create a sort of ”a universal uniform” for all branches – postmen, foresters, customs officials and other uniformed branches. Fortunately, this plan was never accomplished and foresters got to keep their typical uniforms with proper marking.

What is the history of gamekeeper and forester head-gear?

The answer is the same: according to the contemporary fashion. Until the end of the 19th century, you would not be able to recognize a forester from a certain distance just by his head-gear. Everyone was wearing a cocked hat, whether they were a solidier or a gamekeeper. Head-gear – as well as uniforms – was always set by the contemporary fashion, whether it was the renaissance period, rococo or baroque. In the 19th century, fashion brought felt hats of rabbit skin (they are still made by the Tonak Company). When you look at the historical paintings or photographs from this period, every man is wearing some king of headgear. Head-gear was also an inherent part of every uniform. A hat was an inseparable part of forester uniforms; it was often decorated with jackdaw feathers or with a similar decoration. Even the Czechoslovak forester uniform after 1948 feature a felt hat with an insignia of the government forests and also a peaked cap which is very similat to a French legionary cap that you probably know, for example from a picture of M. R. Štefánik. This head-gear went a long time without any change. Not until after the World War II, some time by the end of the 1950s, well-known forester summer caps and winter caps emerged. Especially the winter caps are very popular even today, but made of natural fur. Caps with artificial fur were never a success. Lately, we have “experimented” a little byt, we tried to use Australian apossum, muskrat and hare furs for forester winter caps. Lithuanian gamekeepers annually bag so many beavers that we consider making a forester winter cap of beaver fur.

How did gamekeeper and forester uniforms develop in Bohemia and Moravia after 1989?

After the November 1989 it was clear, that people would want to adopt a new fashion, different from the time of socialism. When I founded the SILVAJAGD company and started business in forester and gamekeeper uniforms design and making. I studied chronicles and other historical resources a lot. I started floating the idea of designing a new uniform for the government forests. I designed three or four variants of jackets, trousers, shorter golflike trousers, vests, cloaks, three-quarter cohats, caps, hats, sweaters and footgear. In 1993 we won the competetion and by the 1st January 1996 (with a new forest law), we introduced a new uniform for employees of the government enterprise Lesy České republiky (Forests of the Czech Republic). Up to the present, we are still their exclusive supplier. The supply is constantly widening and we have the state-of-the-art technology – nanotechnology – at our disposal. Nanotechnology creates specific modifications ans membranes on the textile. Those give the clothes new useful qualities – steam permeability, water resistance, anti-insects repellent, protection against mites, moulds, ticks etc. Besides, we designed uniforms for Slovakforesters. We supply a part of these uniforms for Lithuania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, partially Slovenia and contracts are being prepared with Croatians, Ukrainians, Russia and Romania. The second significant part of our production is designing and making of uniforms for private companies, town and city forests and also for members of aristocratis families. In Bohemia and Moravia. there were vast forest properties rendered back to members of aristocratic families in the restitution process, and many of these members do not have any evidence (besides historical chronicles or old photographs) of what uniforms their family used to wear and what their personnel used to wear. And as history is my hobby, the word spread about me and my company that we are able to “reconstruct”, so to say, the original design of uniforms or to modifity it according to client’s wishes. And so we gradually dressed members of aristocratic families Colloredo- Mannsfeld, Sternberg, Bartoň- Dobenín, Schlick, Parish, Lobkowitz, Wratislav, Podstatsky- Liechtenstein, Kinsky Dal Borgo, Kolowrat Krakovský- Libštejnský, Rajský z Dubic and others, altogether more than twenty aristocratic families from Bohemia and Moravia. Our uniforms were also dressed by members of the Office of the President of the Republic, the Forest District Lány, teachers and students of schools of forestry and employees of other institutions of forestry. We also drew up a project of a uniform for the Order of Saint Hubert an for a uniform of the Bohemian and Moravian Gamekeeping Union.

Let us talk about prognostics: what will gamekeeper and forester uniform look like in the future?

That is an interesting question. The research keeps bringing new technologies. Modern textiles, made with the use of natural materials and nanotechnologies, keep offering highly useful features. Foot-gear with various types of membranes with top heatinsulation features guarantees the highest comfort to users. The clothes designs are based on ergonomic demands and requirements according to the way of moving at work. These are all factors that will provide the future gamekeepers, foresters and all with a year-long operation in countryside with a new quality of clothes and foot-gear. As an expert and a fan of history, it is my wish that we design and make new uniforms and other garments respectinh history and we do not forget all that is valuable and aesthetic that we inherited from our ancestors.

Thank you for the interview. Re-printed from article by Petr Gogola from the Forester magazine. No. 7-8/2008, editors.