Alexa Chung wear a balaclava to the Shrimps 2021 holiday party in London.
James Kelly/Courtesy of Shrimps


How The Balaclava Became Winter’s Alternative To Beanies

Stay warm with this year’s coziest accessory.

With the rise of craftcore pieces like Instagram-friendly knitwear and colorful crochet bucket hats, it was only a matter of time before we’d be (re)introduced to yet another “must-have” fashion trend. If you've been scrolling through your feed lately, you might’ve noticed your favorite celebrities and influencers sporting balaclavas this cold-weather season. But what exactly is this knitted hood and why is it due for a comeback?

Though the style resembles a ski mask, the balaclava is a tight-fitted and often knitted accessory that covers your head, neck, and shoulders. It first originated from the Crimean War during the 1850s, which helped soldiers fight off freezing temperatures during Russia’s brutal winters.

Now, the balaclava is associated with not only keeping you warm, but it also has apocalyptic connotations. Its protective and concealing qualities make the headpiece nearly ominous — think Purge vibes, but make it fashion. Over time, the winter garment has made its way on the runway, like Calvin Klein and Gucci’s Fall 2018 shows. After disappearing on our trend radar for a couple of years, the fashion style made its return in 2021, thanks to brands like Miu Miu, Eckhaus Latta, and Marine Serre, who have all recently showcased their own rendition of the balaclava, using vibrant patterns or bejeweled touches.

Daniele Venturelli/WireImage/Getty Images
Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

According to global fashion search platform Lyst, balaclavas and knitted hoods are currently having a moment online. In the past couple of weeks, searches on the site were up by 64%, with both full-face and open-face styles in high demand. In addition, the all-in-one shopping app Klarna also reported that between September and October 2021, there was a whopping 498% increase in purchases of balaclavas.

It seems that celebrities have contributed to the recent rise of this trend, as well. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, for instance, have both been spotted a number of times in balaclava-inspired coverings this year, but Kardashian’s full-coverage appearance at the 2021 Met Gala (in head-to-toe, all-black Balenciaga) reached mainstream. The revival of balaclavas is also rampant on TikTok, which has reclaimed the “retro” accessory through creators’ videos of their own DIY crochet balaclavas or tips on how to style the knitted headpiece.

As we step even closer towards dropping-temperatures territory, you might want to start bundling up. But don’t worry, you can still be stylish even in colder climates. Though it may seem a bit daunting to style the balaclava at first, the knitted headpiece is actually quite versatile.

For starters, the headwear has a variety of covering options, so you can wear whichever piece depending on your comfort level. The hooded look can also be paired in a number of ways, as it comes different prints, textures, and colorways to suit any mood. You can add a pop of color to a monochrome outfit, or achieve your inner maximalist by opting for more vibrant patterns and funky designs. Another styling tip, according to street style shots and ‘fit pics on Instagram, includes showing off bit of your hairline, too.

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

If you’d rather opt out of DIY methods and are looking to find some balaclavas to wear this winter, check out some of our favorite and coziest picks, from Paloma Wool and & Other Stories to Marine Serre and Miu Miu, ahead.

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