TikTok would agree. Her #balaclava tag racked up 141 million views, seeing Gen Z knitwear brands gain momentum alongside viral comments about the hypocrisy of face-covering trends. As @malihaness points out, we can’t forget that marginalized groups, like Muslim women and black men, are still reviled for the same headwear that’s trending right now.
In the UK, young black men have long worn balaclavas to protect themselves from police discrimination. It’s a practicality that has spilled over into the exercise scene, where balaclavas are a key part of the aesthetic, and streetwear brands, like elusive West London label Corteiz, who surround it.
But 2022 is not all misfortune and darkness. Balaclavas and knitted balaclavas are also the product of a joyful wave of DIY knits ushered in by the pandemic – see DIY knitting brands like ROWS, which sells “models of balaclavas to knit yourself. “People needed things to keep their hands and minds busy,” says Tatyana, owner of independent knitwear brand Tattyarner, which she launched during the initial lockdown.
Unlike more minimalist streetwear-inspired styles, many of these young designers create pieces with a cheerful maximalism. Do-it-all accessories are practical, yes, but they can also be quite extra (take Ingratx’s circus designs, which regularly attract millions of views).