Bulgarian men’s folk costume can be divided into two main types according to the colour of the trousers and outer garments; belodreshnik or “white dress”, and chernodreshnik, literally meaning “black dress”, but in practice this is more often brown or blue. Belodreshnik was the older form of dress which is considered to have Slavic origins. It was made from thick white homespun woollen cloth called aba and was originally worn throughout Bulgaria, but was replaced by chernodreshnik in central, south and north east Bulgaria by the early decades of the 19th century, during the Bulgarian National Revival period. It continued to be worn in West Bulgaria (Pirin and Shopluk) and west and central North Bulgaria until the early 20th century when it was replaced by western style clothing.
Both types of costumes were worn with a white shirt (riza), a wide, brightly coloured sash (pojas), a hat made of black lambskin (kalpak), leg wraps (navoi) or knitted socks, and leather peasant sandals (tsârvuli), or more commonly today, shoes.
The two types of men costume represent two consecutive stages in the development of men’s clothing. The chernodreshnik costume spread across Bulgaria from east to west during the National Revival period, with its spread being speeded up by the desire of men to look like townsfolk, as part of the unification process which took place in Bulgarian culture at this time. This style was strongly influenced by Ottoman fashions. The trouser and over garments which comprise this ‘dark dress’ were made from factory produced brown, dark blue or black woollen cloth (shayak), which was woven in workshops in the urban centres that developed during this period, and was made into garments by urban based tailors. The style of costume worn by the more wealthy urban dwellers (chorbadjis) in these town was very wide loose trousers, silk waistbands and anteriyas (short jackets) with elaborate decoration.
The men’s costumes of Western Bulgaria, in the regions of Sofia, Samokov, Stanke Dimitrov and Kyustendil reflect a transitional phase between belodreshnik and chernodreshnik. In these areas a dark blue or black jacket or waistcoat was worn over white trousers. This dated from the 19th century and originated in urban settlements that were influenced by European fashion, where this style out modelled chernodreshnik dress.