Fashion 

Balaclavas Might Just Be the Biggest Accessory Trend This Winter

Cozy and practical, the balaclava is the holy grail of cold weather staples.

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43,743 Hypes

No longer just the go-to accessory of skiers and bank heisters, the balaclava has gone off-piste this season, arriving in droves to runways and Instagram grids alike. The accessory served as the cherry on top of Miu Miu’s Alpine-themed FW21 collection. A variant covering the full face served as an integrated — and integral — part of Kim Kardashian’s shocking Met Gala look this year. Depop shoppers and TikTokers can’t seem to get enough of it, either. And for good reason. The balaclava is cute — it’s cozy, it’s clandestine and it’s the most sought-after accessory this winter.

No doubt this season’s balaclava craze has stemmed from the current moment — the last year-and-a-half, to be specific. In 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the widespread use of face masks to slow the virus’ spread. Since then, face coverings have become a part of our daily lives. Along with our wallet, keys and cellphones, masks are likely one of the items you won’t find yourself leaving home without. Last year, designers put their own ornate spins on the new essential: Collina Strada in oversized ribbons, PHLEMUNS in graphic patterns and Eckhaus Latta in space-dyed yarn. For Fall/Winter 2021, however, the fashion industry is leaning further into the accessory’s practical side. This time, by way of the balaclava.

The holy grail of winter accessories, the balaclava offers more protection than the standard beanie and scarf, combined, protecting the head, the neck and — most notably — the face. It’s an area of our bodies that has oft been overlooked in the arena of everyday winter-weather protection. That is, until last winter. “Ok but wearing a mask when it’s cold and windy kinda slaps,” one Twitter user wrote last winter. Over 40,000 people agreed and retweeted. For Winter 2021, brands from Miu Miu to Lemaire have answered our collective call for a cozier, more stylish iteration of the face-covering accessory. Miu Miu’s version of the balaclava, aptly named the “wool helmet,” even arrives with a detachable woolen mask, which can be added or removed to adapt to the weather — or occasion — at hand. In September’s balmier conditions, and on the red carpet, The Crown star Emma Corrin wore the Miu Miu accessory sans mask to the 2021 Emmy Awards.

The balaclava’s recent resurgence comes, too, from another of the pandemic’s necessities: lockdown. After months of quarantine, the majority of us are excited to leave the confines of our houses and apartments and return to the spaces — restaurants, movie theatres and museums — that we love. But some of us are less eager to relinquish the comforts of home: namely, naps, homemade sourdough and our beloved in-fits. The balaclava is perhaps the perfect crossover accessory during this transitional moment, bringing the coziness of indoor-living into the great outdoors.

The trend’s homespun roots are evident in pieces created by designers like Cecilie Bahnsen and Lolo Crochète’s Lory Labossière. Knitted from feather-light mohair, Bahnsen’s iteration of the woolen face-warmer is an extension of her ultra-cozy FW21 collection. Think matelassé garments that mimic quilts and bedspreads, and wrap dresses that give the impression of being swaddled in a blanket. For Labossière, her crochet label began as a quarantine hobby. While her label is still based out of her home studio in Montréal, the designer’s hand-crocheted balaclavas are definitely designed for our post-quarantine reality, to be worn out-and-about.

Of all the celebrity proponents of the balaclava, Kim Kardashian is the strongest. In early September, the former KUWTK star arrived in New York wearing a leather gimp mask, from Vetements’ Spring/Summer 2019 collection by Demna Gvasalia. Two days later, she stepped onto the Met Gala’s red carpet wearing that face-covering Balenciaga bodysuit. It was a look that, as GQ writer Rachel Tashjian put it, “turned the most visible and overexposed woman in the history of the world into a giant void.” In this context, the balaclava offers a different kind of protection: anonymity. The sartorial equivalent of going “incognito mode,” or of “no pictures, please.” And of, maybe — just maybe — going completely off the grid. The Instagram grid, that is.

Below, shop eight of our favorite balaclava styles for Winter 2021.

Cecilie Bahnsen Gaia Hat

Cecilie Bahnsen
Gaia Hat
€300 EUR (Approx. $339 USD)
Cecilie BahnsenCecilie Bahnsen 

BEVZA Knyahynya Balaсlava

BEVZA
Knyahynya Balaclava
$169 USD
BEVZABEVZA 

Marine Serre All Over Moon Balaclava

Marine Serre
All Over Moon Balaclava
€175 EUR (Approx. $198 USD)
Marine SerreMarine Serre 

Miu Miu Crochet Wool Helmet With Face Mask

Miu Miu
Crochet Wool Helmet With Face Mask
$6,250 HKD (Approx. $801 USD)
Miu MiuMiu Miu 

Shrimps Pauline Balaclava

Shrimps
Pauline Balaclava
$335 USD
ShrimpsShrimps 

Stussy Stock Knit Balaclava

Stussy
Stock Knit Balaclava
$40 USD
HBXHBX 

SUNNEI Acid Green Knit Balaclava

SUNNEI
Acid Green Knit Balaclava
€210 EUR (Approx. $237 USD)
SUNNEISUNNEI 

Ruslan Baginskiy Balaclava

Ruslan Baginskiy
Balaclava
$200 USD
Ruslan BaginskiyRuslan Baginskiy 

Zoë Kendall is a writer and editor specializing in fashion and culture.
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