From the track to retail: balaclavas
Trace the trend
The name comes from their use in the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War of 1854, referring to the town near Sevastopol in Crimea. Handmade balaclavas were sent to British troops to protect them from the freezing cold. Thus, for decades, balaclavas have been associated with military and paramilitary organizations. At one point, wearing a balaclava became a statement of protest in the style of Russian activist group Pussy Riot.
Kanye West: a pioneer of the balaclava!
Kanye West was arguably the first major celebrity to put on a balaclava in 2013; his version is believed to have been a “do-it-yourself affair”, a cut-off red beanie created to avoid being “papped” at Paris Fashion Week. He was quickly followed by other A-listers, including Beyoncé and Justine Bieber, who recognized the benefits of hiding the face from the glare of photographers.
Raf Simons elevates the balaclava
However, it was during the fw18 collections that balaclavas made their first fashion statement. It was Raf Simons’ third season designing for Calvin Klein (aka Calvin Klein 204W39NYC) and, in a prescient move, showed off a collection designed for a dystopian future. Inspired by the film “Safe,” in which Julianne Moore’s character falls victim to numerous environmental illnesses, Simons filled the show with protective gear, accessorized with knitted balaclavas. That season, Gucci, Marni, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi and Dior all showed off balaclavas and balaclavas. The trend has continued to resonate on the catwalks every season since for both men and women. For fw21, Miu Miu’s version made a major statement in a chunky knit with a removable face shield and matching scarf.
Balaclavas are going viral on Tiktok
Since then, the widespread use of balaclavas and balaclavas on social media platforms, including selfies on Instagram and videos on Tiktok, has helped cement the mass market trend. A resurgence of fashion/skiwear collaborations and the realization that your Covid mask also kept your face warm in the winter, created the perfect storm.
Where to buy balaclavas
At the retail level, high-end designers present a variety of styles. From Maison Margiela, A cotton/wool blend balaclava with a Fair Isle-inspired pattern.
This version of Stella McCartney is made from wool with an abstract intarsia pattern.
..and Loro Piano, a cashmere balaclava with a geometric pattern.
Contemporary brand Kule sells a variety of cotton/wool blend or cashmere balaclavas.
The balaclava trend shows no signs of slowing down; so expect to see them during the current fw22 season.