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A Croatian housewife offers tourists a regional souvenir: the penis warmer

posted 25 Mar 2012, 14:43 by Mpelembe   [ updated 25 Mar 2012, 14:44 ]

A housewife from a small town in central Croatia turns the penis warmer, a forgotten garment historically worn in the area, into a popular souvenir.
Radmila Kus, a housewife from a small town in central Croatia, has turned hand-made woollen penis warmers, a forgotten garment traditionally worn in the mountainous region, into a quirky but popular souvenir.
The item of clothing, which was historically used by local men in the mountainous region in central Croatia, had fallen into obscurity by the 19th century. But it was pulled out of oblivion by the fifty-five-year-old Kus, from the town of Mrkopalj, who learned to make the products out of felt wool and started a small business in the late 1990s.

"Penis warmers used to be worn in these parts as a normal clothing item for the male private parts because the winters were very harsh, with very low temperatures, men would work in the woods and in order to protect themselves - people were extremely poor back then - so (they wore them) in order to protect themselves from frostbite. Women made them either by knitting or sewing. However, I pulled them out of oblivion and gave them new life for the boys from (the rock band) 'Let 3'," Kus told Reuters TV.

Her handmade slippers and hats did not attract much attention at first, but this changed dramatically some 12 years ago when she was contacted by a popular Croatian rock band Let 3. The band hired Kus to create a garment which combined woolen aprons and penis warmers. The band members then wore the garment in videos and appeared with them in public, which gave Kus' craft some much needed exposure.

"They won a first place award in Slovenia for their styling, and since then the business has taken off. Not only penis warmers but all the other products as well - slippers, hats, bags, everything that we make," she said.

Kus' daughter now heads an association of local women who all make woolen products for sale. Kus also toured the country to teach other women living in remote communities of Croatia to make products out of felt woollen fabric, with over 800 women attending her courses over the years.

Although today's penis warmers are usually not worn as a garment, they have become hugely popular among Croatians as joke presents.

"Penis warmers are not really worn today. But for birthday parties, or as a gift, or as a joke, they are an endless source of inspiration," Kus said.

The warmers have even started gaining some popularity beyond Croatia's borders, with many orders coming from Italy and other countries.

"I have to say, I made many for (customers in) Italy, in Croatia (I get many orders) from (the cities of) Zagreb and Rijeka, and also abroad. I can't say where exactly because I get many orders from seamen (who take them around the world)," Kus said.

Kus says that although she has casts for warmers of all sizes, the biggest size - which is some 20 cm long - is the most popular. It takes her about 2 hours of work to make and decorate a single warmer, which she sells for about 50 Kuna (9 USD).