A piece of clothing that is most famously worn on the slopes of ski resorts, and one that may even have been considered to have had its ‘hay day’ – is most certainly back with a bang. With sightings of the balaclava on just about every celebrity and style icon as well as in the runway collections of high-end designers from Raf Simons to GUCCI, it’s clear that this is the current “it girl” (or guy) accessory – but let’s talk about why that’s exciting.
Everyone loves knitwear, and it’s never going away, but knitwear in general seemed to have a hot minute in the spotlight throughout the pandemic. With the whole population being cooped up indoors time and time again, it’s no surprise people took the leap and purchased some knitting needles and wool. A tool of creation in the right hands – a weapon in the wrong ones – this addiction to knitting seems harmless in comparison to the other habits many of us picked up, I’m sure (insert *daily deliveroo, boredom baking and increased alcohol consumption* here). So, I suppose it’s only natural that the smaller, more easily made accessories became popular to make – and thus to sell. However, it’s not only that which makes the resurgence of the balaclava so interesting. There are a few indicators, two specifically, that imply this trend may allude to a more environmentally aware consumer base, and points towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
The first is the enhanced awareness making clothing for ourselves provides. Embarking on a new, random hobby like knitting a balaclava can help you realise how much effort actually goes into each item of clothing you wear. Why? Simply because it takes a lot of time, effort and skill – things we don’t particularly like to part with, or utilise. The second is the positive effect of turning to small makers and businesses to purchase from. Those who didn’t quite make it to creating the finished balaclava (or those who weren’t arsed full stop) sought sellers on Depop, Etsy or elsewhere in cyberspace to source their balaclavas, where independent sellers were waiting patiently for their custom. Enhanced awareness leads to conscious consumption, which is a true pillar in leading a more sustainable lifestyle. Supporting small businesses and independent makers leads to community growth, is economy boosting and typically results in a smaller carbon footprint, thus, doing so is more sustainable.
So, the balaclava ticks these boxes, but it’s this final note that I think is most intriguing of all; practicality. Unlike previous trends, the balaclava serves a function, (at the risk of saying the
obvious) it keeps your ears and face warm. Chunky runners, corsets, bike shorts, oversized T-shirts, distressed denims – the list goes on – are some recent global trends across the fashion industry that were fundamentally impractical, causing them to be short-lived and thereby disposable. The shift towards a trending garment that has a function and serves a purpose means that it is more than just a fleeting, disposable accessory. Sure, they may not be as in demand next year or the year after that, but they will still serve a purpose and can be utilised for this, ‘cold faces’ will always remain. Will the balaclava be the first of trends in a long-time to outlive the cycle? Is this an overthought, or is society truly edging towards more sustainable, conscious consumption?
Only time will tell.