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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cold? Real Men Don't Wear Ear Flaps

Men: Whatever you do, don't let your flaps down.

After a night when temperatures dipped to minus 25 Celsius, at least nine out of every ten male Muscovites wore their fur hats Tuesday with the flaps folded up, leaving their ears exposed in various shades of red and blue.

"Are you cold? I'm not, and I've been standing here all day!" said Vasily Chura, a cheerful traffic police officer posted on Arbat Square. As thermometers in downtown Moscow edged to just above minus 20, the flaps on his shapka were neatly tied on top.

"We're Russian people," he added. "We're used to it."

Asked what it would take for him to put his flaps down, he grinned and clicked his finger against his throat, the Russian gesture to denote heavy drinking: "40 degrees -- proof."

One day after temperatures hit 25.5 degrees below zero, the lowest recorded on that date in 100 years, and one day before the winter hit its shortest day, Moscow's men showed once again that they are made of sturdier stuff than their Western brothers.

"Your subconscious is not adapted to the temperatures," a middleaged man, who identified himself only as Valentin, said with an indulgent smile for a Western reporter who wore his flaps down. "My brain adapts to the temperature. It sends less blood to the ears."

"This is a real Russian winter. Above minus 10 it is European," said Alexei Nikitin, as he waited for a bus at Rechnoi Vokzal. Nikitin said his flaps were sown together and would not even come down at minus 40. "It's to show that nothing affects you," he said.

The news that eight Muscovites have frozen to death in the recent cold snap appears to have done nothing to blunt such bravado.

Alexei Kalimov, a 70-year-old pensioner who wisely wore his flaps down, had a more sober explanation for the ear-flap phenomenon. "They are trying to show off their toughness, endurance and manliness," he said as he tapped his feet to keep them warm. "Often they will put on a hat but keep their chests bare, especially in Siberia."

"When I was young, I wore it like that," Kalimov added, pointing his flaps up. "I couldn't care less. My blood was warmer. Now I feel uncomfortable when they're up."

Some younger men are nonconformist as well, but they too get a little defensive when asked if they are real men, or muzhiki. "As long as I'm warm I don't care. Ask my girlfriend, she knows that I am a real muzhik," one man said.

Foreign men are allowed some le nience, as they are commonly dismissed as not real muzhiki anyway. Some adapt to peer pressure, others, like Nebiyou Temesgen, adapt to the climate.

"As long as it's not windy it's O.K.," said Temesgen, an Ethiopian employee of a Czech consultancy who has lived in Russia for six years. He wore a woollen cap and a hood, and said only his nose was a trifle nippy.

"When it's not windy, I take the hood down," Temesgen said. "I used to live in St. Petersburg, it was much colder there."

The city weather forecast predicts a balmy minus 15 by Friday.

But Officer Chura offered some sound advice to the wimps of the West in case the forecast is wrong.

"Pump iron," he said. "Wash with cold water in the morning and you'll feel warm all day."