The Balaclava is the Season’s Most Wanted Accessory

The Balaclava is the Season’s Most Wanted Accessory

Photography courtesy of Eliza Faulkner

Its resurgence raises some important questions.

With the rise of protective dressing thanks to COVID-19, a new face-bundling trend is taking the fashion world by storm: the balaclava.

Though the knitted hood is currently enjoying renewed notoriety online, it’s been around for centuries. The name itself comes from the town of Balaklava, Crimea, where during the 19th century Crimean War soldiers wore hand-knitted masks to provide extra protection against harsh weather conditions.

The hat/scarf combo is typically made of wool and comes in many variations: those with entire face openings; those with openings for the eyes, mouth and nose; and those with openings only for the eyes.

As many of us picked up or perfected hobbies like crafting over the pandemic, handmade balaclavas have become the lockdown trend du jour, inspiring new colour patterns and eccentric shapes of the cold weather accessory.

With an enticingly cozy look, the balaclava provides the social security of a mask that we’ve all become accustomed to (I, for one, am not yet ready to show my entire face in public). Plus, its face-hugging design offers a layer of warmth in frigid temperatures.

As masks have become a staple of daily life, face-covering fashion has become normalized and even celebrated. When Kim Kardashian arrived at the 2021 Met Gala in a Balenciaga ensemble that covered her from head to toe, she was applauded for making a bold statement by opting for complete anonymity. The look was certainly indicative of the times we’re living in, but historically, cultural face coverings have not been met with the same praise.

Racism and Islamophobia continue to contribute to negative attitudes surrounding face coverings. In Canada, there is legislation that limits Muslim communities from wearing cultural head and face coverings like hijabs and turbans. And as pandemic mask mandates have sparked discussions that racialized groups, specifically Black communities, have long experienced profiling for wearing face coverings.

As balaclavas continue to carve out a space in the fashion world, Muslim creators have pointed out the double standard.

Needless to say, the balaclava has become a winter style staple. Tempted to give the cozy knitted accessory a try, but not quite ready to craft one yourself? Read on for some of our top balaclava picks this season.

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