The Greek Presidential Guard or Evzones are a group of elite Greek soldiers who are trained to perform various ceremonial duties. They stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Presidential Palace and also raise and lower the flag at the Acropolis every Sunday. The Evzones uniform is handmade with intricate detail, taking many months to complete and is a symbol of the country’s nationalistic pride, representing the significant battles fought throughout Greece’s modern history. The formal version of the uniform is white and worn on Sundays and at official occasions, with a doulama or tunic worn at other times, khaki in summer and navy blue in winter.
Hover over the image to see details of the uniform
The Evzones Uniform in Pictures
The Farion cap is made from a soft red baize and features a long silk tassel. The uniform of the islands, often referred to as the Cretan uniform, features a shorter tassel. The tassels extreme length, can require untangling by the soldier on duty after a march or movement and skilled Evzones maintain an extreme upright posture to avoid the trouble. The front of the caps have the Greek coat of arms with the officers rank displayed underneath. When a salute is made, the Evzones point two fingers toward the coat of arms at the front of the Farion.
The Fermeli is the most intricate part of the Evzones uniform. Hand embroidered entirely from wool, the thousands of stitching holes are hidden on the reverse side of the waistcoat which can take a period months to complete and can last up to ten years. The Fermeli also distinguishes the rank of the Evzone, although it will take a keen eye to identify the subtle stripes placed at the back right tail of the coat, one for a Corporal and two for a Sergeant, and none will be visible for Privates.
The Ypodetes is the extremely wide sleeved white shirt worn by the Evzones which flare as they march and thought to symbolise the purity of the national purpose. Underneath the wide sleeve, there is a button down long sleeve which reaches the wrist.
The Foustanella is made from over 30 metres of fabric and features 400 pleats to represent the liberation of Greece from the years of Ottoman occupation. The Krossia (braided fringes), are blue and white after the colours of the Greek Flag. The origins of the kilt like garment are widely contested by historians as other Balkan countries such as Albania and Bulgaria identify with their own version of the garment. However archaeological evidence painted on vases from the Byzantine period show the Foustanella was in use in Greek territories in the 12th century AD whilst kilt like garments were represented in sculptures found in the Attica region dating back to the 5th century BC.
The Tsarouchia shoes of the Evzones weigh over three kilograms and feature at least 60 nails on the base of the shoe which simulate the sound of battle during the movement of the Evzone. The toe of the Tsarouchia is pointed upwards and covered by a black silk pom pom which is hand cut to shape. The base of the shoe is made from cowhide and over 300 hand stitches are required to hold each shoe together. The Evzones wear two pairs of Periskelides (woollen stockings) on each leg which are held up by the Epiknemides (silk garters) with tassel.
The M1 Garrand gun
Each Evzone carries the M1 Garand gun which weighs over five kilograms and puts enormous pressure on the body as it is slammed into the shoulder at the end of every movement. The gun however plays an important role beyond the ceremony. The soldier on duty, who is dressed in army fatigues, supports the Evzones during their time on duty by controlling crowds around them, adjusting their uniforms and ensuring their well being through the motionless hour in heat, cold and rain. By hitting the butt of the gun on the ground, the soldier is made aware that the Evzone requires assistance. The soldier will ask the Evzone questions and the answers are communicated by blinking, one blink is ‘yes’, two blinks is ‘no’, three blinks is ‘i don’t know’.
The daily Evzones uniform
The non-ceremonial Evzones uniform is worn Monday through Saturday with the exception of special national days or the reception of dignitaries. The doulama (a form of tunic) is worn with the tsarouchia (shoes), the epiknemides (stockings), farion (cap) and Garand gun. The summer uniform is khaki in colour and made from cotton and the winter uniform is made from wool and navy blue in colour with its origins dating back to the Macedonian Struggle of 1904.
The Evzones uniform of the islands
The uniform of the Islands is largely Cretan influenced and is worn on Sunday’s and special occasions to represent and honour the struggle of not only mainland Greece, but the islands. The wearer of the uniform is referred to as a Vrakoforos, as many of the island specific traditional uniforms are referred to. The uniform consists of the Cretan coat and vest, Cretan battle knife, distinctive blue breeches and white leather boots. On 19 May of each year, the Evzones also feature a black Pontic uniform to commemorate the Pontic genocide.
The Evzones Officer’s uniform
The Evzones officers uniform is distinct and colourful. The Foustanella is knee length with 400 pleats, and the Fermeli is royal purple in colour with gold embroidery. The Epiknemides (stockings) are red with red and gold knee high boots and blue silk garters. The officer also carries a traditional sabre from the 1821 war of independence and the Farion (cap) features their rank underneath the Greek coat of arms.
You can see the Evzones in their traditional ceremonial uniform at the Grand Changing of the Guard parade every Sunday at 11am at Greek Parliament in Syntagma Square.