Why the balaclava has invaded social networks
Scroll through Instagram, TikTok, or Pinterest this winter and you’ll see thousands of young faces framed inside what looks like an overgrown knitted sock. The balaclava, sometimes referred to as a ski mask, has become an unusual sartorial staple – and a late entry into the race to claim 2021’s hottest fashion trend.
“Recent designs of balaclavas like Stella McCartney through to those currently on sale at Zara are fueling demand for all ages,” Jessica Payne, fashion manager at Pinterest, said via email. She noted that searches for balaclavas had jumped 230% since early November.
The balaclava is the basic knitted item for winter on every catwalk and social media feed. Credit: Edward Berthelot / Getty Images
The late Virgil Abloh dressed models in balaclavas during the Louis Vuitton men’s show during Paris Fashion Week in June. Credit: Dominique Charriau / WireImage / Getty Images
So where did the balaclava come from and how has it captured the imaginations of some of the industry’s top designers?
Balaclavas have a military history, stemming from the Crimean War in the 19th century and which continues today. Credit: Sergei Supinsky / AFP / Getty Images
According to Rachel Tashjian, resident fashion critic at GQ, the balaclava bubble probably started around this time in 2018 thanks to luxury streetwear brand Vetements, co-founded by Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia (known as Demna), who also heads the creative direction at Balenciaga. (At the Met Gala this fall, Demna dressed Kim Kardashian West in a black bodysuit and full face mask). At the time, Vetements released an accessorized collection of militant balaclavas and flowery silk scarves wrapped around baseball caps.
It was “all the rage in Eastern Europe with a delay of 20 years,” Tashjian said by email. “The attitude of the collection was both menacing and grandmother, the result of rebuilding flea market clothing from other periods into something new.”
Demna Gvasalia and Kim Kardashian showed up at the Met Gala last September with their faces fully masked. Credit: John Shearer / WireImage / Getty Images
“Usually trends that serve a purpose end up lasting longer in the cycle,” she commented, adding, “(The balaclava) makes me really horny.”
Top image: Influencer Maria Barteczko, wearing a black balaclava beanie by Weekday during a street style shoot on November 19, 2021 in Cologne, Germany.