Fashion isn’t always about practicality, but every once in a while a trend comes about that perfectly syncs up form and function. In the case of the balaclava, that function is now serving two purposes: as a winter accessory and a pandemic-adjacent fashion look.
Balaclavas — and face masks — were already on the rise both in street style and on the red carpet before the pandemic hit. At the 2020 Grammy Awards, Billie Eilish sported a Gucci face mask, reflecting a runway trend that the brand had at the time purveyed for a few seasons.
Of course, over the past few years, face masks have become both a necessity and a source of tension and division in the real world. But to fashion folk, it’s just another accessory to experiment with. Take Kim Kardashian’s full face covering by Balenciaga at last year’s Met Gala. Or Kanye West’s face masks spotted last week at Paris Couture(clearly the separated couple have a consensus on the look even if they don’t have the same for their relationship).
On the streets at Paris Men’s Fashion Week, the balaclava was clearly the accessory of the moment. The fashion capital of the world may have milder winters than, say, New York City, but the face masks still provided warmth from the elements, in chunky knits and technical fabrics alike.
Street style subjects combined the balaclava with other wintry pieces such as puffer jackets and scarves, and they even layered them under baseball caps, hoods and other hats. The look was also paired with more feminine accessories such as handbags slung over the shoulder, pearls and other necklaces, stacked rings and even with silk headscarves for an additional layer. The styling proved that while the balaclava may have its origins in ski fashion, it can still be integrated into today’s menswear, including and especially the more feminine looks seen from the likes of Fendi for fall ’22.
While recent medical recommendations have urged an upgrade on face masks (to N95 versions and the like) to protect against Covid, the balaclava serves as a way to stay stylish overtop a medical mask — or just have a quick cover that can easily transition from outdoor to indoor.
Click here to see the best street style at Paris Men’s Fashion Week’s fall ’22 season — with plenty of balaclavas in sight.
Shop winter balaclavas
To buy: Verloop balaclava ski mask, $65.
To buy: Prada cashmere knit ski hood, $1,150.
To buy: Marc Jacobs monogram balaclava, $150.