If the word Balaclava conjures up visions of Cops ’n’ Robbers, think again! The balaclava is back and set to be this year’s must-have fashion accessory!
It seems that covering one’s face has turned from a social necessity during a global pandemic to a lifestyle choice with variations of the traditional balaclava popping up in many designer collections this season. Besides its practicality for warmth in the colder weather, could it be that we are starting to enjoy the anonymity and element of mystery it brings? Is it a sign of the times that we are opting to disconnect from one another?
The balaclava was originally worn by British soldiers during the Crimean war in 1854 during a battle which became its namesake. Later in the 20th century, they became linked with elite military forces such as the SAS and nowadays seem to be notoriously linked to anarchy and criminal activity. It’s original simple design featured three holes for the eyes and mouth.
In 2018, Nike was criticised for playing on stereotypes associated with black youths and gang culture and subsequently their balaclava-esque offering was withdrawn from sale.
Designers have come under some scrutiny and been accused of exploiting the racial subtext of the item; certain variants do resemble that of a traditional hijab or niqab, worn by Muslim women.
That said, have designers turned these social stigmas on their head to present the balaclava in a more desirable, less suspicious light?
If we are to continue wearing face coverings in public, on a cold day, does the balaclava affectively kill two birds with one stone?