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The Rise of The Balaclava in High Fashion

Photo of a women wearing a fashionable trendy balaclava with neon lights in the background.

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The history of the balaclava

The balaclava is a stylistic form of headwear, covering the entire face besides the eyes and the nose. Originating during the Crimean War, as a means of warmth for British troops, the introduction of this woollen design first appeared during The Battle of Balaclava – giving it its name. Due to its insulative qualities, balaclavas became popular amongst ski resorts and in the special forces, acting as an extension of the hat in terms of protection against cold temperatures.

The rise of the balaclava as a fashion trend

Since this 19th century occurrence, however, the balaclava has become much more than a form of protection against bitter weather conditions and a broader statement within fashion, whether it be on the runway, on the red carpet, or worn by a celebrity being photographed as they walk down the street. This first became a trend on high fashion in 2018, when the likes of Vetements and Gucci used the balaclava during their runway show, sparking a domino effect amongst designers, seeing them frequently appear in numerous collections as each brand jumped on this bandwagon. Kim Kardashian even wore a balaclava to top off her all-black Balenciaga look. With a huge influx of headwear embellished looks, it is no surprise that the balaclava has swiftly transformed itself into a must-have accessory. 

Not only has the runway fueled this trend, but the outbreak of COVID-19 and necessity of wearing face coverings has further driven appeal for the balaclava, which acts as a stylish, warmer alternative to a standard face mask, covering just the mouth. 

The trailblazers of the balaclava in high fashion

It is no secret that celebrities have embraced the emergence of the balaclava, acting as an intermediary between fashion designers and the public looking to them for style inspiration. Notably, Beyonce has not only been seen wearing numerous balaclavas, but has also introduced her own self-designed versions within her popular ‘Ivy Park’ collection. Rihanna wore a Gucci balaclava to Coachella in 2018: defying the origins of the headwear to keep you warm, but rather wearing it in the scorching Californian heat as a form of stylistic expression. A$AP Rocky and Kanye West are also amongst the celebrities sporting this trend.

Balaclava in Contemporary Streetwear

The surge of the balaclava in contemporary fashion is not limited to high fashion brands and celebrity endorsements; it has also found its way into streetwear aesthetics. UK Brands like Corteiz and Japanese streetwear powerhouses like A Bathing Ape (Bape) have been instrumental in embracing and popularizing the balaclava trend in street fashion. These brands, known for their edgy designs and unique interpretations of style, have incorporated balaclavas into their collections as a statement piece. The balaclava has been transformed from a practical garment into an urban fashion accessory, creating a wave of intrigue around its use. By combining the balaclava with all over graphic prints, bold logos, and innovative fabrics, brands like Corteiz and Bape have contributed to a global acceptance of this trend, pushing the boundaries of fashion and reinforcing the balaclava as a crucial part of streetwear culture.

Best high-end balaclavas

Marni Knitted Wool Balaclava

Marni have designed an eye-catching balaclava which is striking in both color and its overall crafting. Made of virgin wool, this balaclava is available in a bright fuchsia pink, a slightly more neutral white, or in a mustard yellow. This ribbed-knit look is embellished with colored stitching, creating an eye-catching, almost rustic look, making the item feel somewhat bespoke and hand-made, falling into corelation with the balaclava’s wartime origins. 

A slightly more subtle balaclava can be seen at Loewe, who offer a slightly more neutralised ribbed wool balaclava, available in an ‘off-white’ cream or black and white striped design. A romantic touch of a heart-shaped cut-out acts as a characteristic method of framing the face, giving air to both of the eyes and the nose, subverting away from the bank-robber-esque associations the balaclava can sometimes carry.

Other Noteworthy Balaclavas

Made from 100% wool, Marine Serre’s ‘Knit Cagoule’ balaclava is the perfect match for any cable knit jumper, with its ribbed front and contrasting motifs across the circumference of the head. Available in red, beige or black, with complimentary embellishments from subtle colour undertones around the neckline, this balaclava exudes a sophisticated feel which is perfect for any kind of winter style. 

If you are planning on hitting the ski slopes, or wearing a balaclava whilst the sun is shining, Jacquemus’ ‘Le cagoule casquette’ is the perfect option for you! With its fluffy appearance, this balaclava, available in a multitude of colors, will be highly enviable on any cold day. The focal point of this design has to be the addition of a visor, transforming the accessory into a part-balaclava, part-baseball cap. This is an unforgettable look which can be additionally accessorised with a matching scarf and gloves, all of which are available in matching materials and colors. 

Lemae Balaclava from Arc’teryx

For those who wish to sport a more functional look, utilising the balaclava as a means of warmth as well as being part of their overall style, the Lemae Balaclava from Arc’teryx offers the perfect compromise. With the cut out of the balaclava forming a sleek silhouette of a nose, maximum warmth is guaranteed, as well as a feeling of elegance. This design also includes a longer neck than a regular balaclava, doubling up as a scarf providing additional warmth to a larger surface area of the body. 

A key feature of fashion, as well as cold weather

Having first hit the runway approximately 4 years ago, the popularity of balaclavas only seems to be growing. With celebrities sporting this headwear as part of their street-style and red carpet looks, it comes as no surprise that balaclavas are largely populated amongst high-street store shelves and in online shopping baskets. With winter swiftly approaching, the balaclava has never been so appealing, allowing you to keep as warm as possible whilst conforming to the latest trends.

FAQs About Balaclava

Ski mask is definitely the number one synonym of balaclava. Several high fashion brands also refer to balaclavas as “la cagoule” which is french for “hood”.
There’s nothing stopping you from wearing a balaclava in the summer. We recommend choosing a lighter / more breathable option for the warmer months. You may even want to choose an option with some degree of sun protection.
Marni is at the forefront of high fashion brands that make balaclavas. Other brands such as Burberry, JACQUEMUS, and OFF-WHITE also have some very stylish options.

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