A Telnyashka is an undershirt vest of dark and white stripes, either sleeveless or not, an iconic uniform of the Russian Navy, the Airborne Troops (VDV) and the Marines, initially of the Soviet predecessors of these troops.
The symbol of great combat pride for those wearing it, a Telnyashka became a common symbol of masculinity and self-confidence.
The official uniforms of the mentioned troops include no shirts, and the specially designed jacket suppose that a Telnyashka is a visible part of it (not just an underwear).
Telnyashkas with stripes of certain dark colors traditionally mark the particular troops:
The black (depth) –the submariners, OMON and the Internal Troops;
The dark blue (sea) –the Navy and the Marines;
The light blue (sky) –the Airborne Troops (VDV) and GRU Spetsnaz;
The light green (forests) –the Border Troops.
Telnyashkas came from a practice originated among the Breton merchants and fishermen, who adopted the striped vests to distinguish them from other nations at a distance. Later the striped vests were adopted and popularized by the French Navy and other marine forces of the pre-Dreadnought era.
The tradition of Russian and Soviet ground forces to wear a naval uniform comes from the Soviet Navy sailors who –while under siege – fought ashore during World War II.
This was exemplified by a famed Soviet sniper Vassiliy Zaitsev, who served as a petty officer of the Soviet Pacific Fleet and volunteered for the Army, but, despite the transfer, refused to take off his striped sailor’s vest because of the pride it engendered.
General Vassiliy Margelov, the founder of the Soviet Airborne Troops, served in a Marines unit during World War II, and procured the striped vest for the VDV as a mark of their elite status.
There is a popular saying that represents Telnyashkas as a symbol of masculinity: “We are few in number, but we wear Telnyashkas!”