Every so often, we’re faced with some tricky fashion questions that have us wanting to phone a friend. Consider our column Ask an Expert that friend, turning to the experts — designers, stylists and other fashion professionals — to address your sartorial thoughts, comments and concerns.
A balaclava — not to be confused with Baklava, the delicious filo pastry — is a complicated accessory. That hasn’t stopped it from becoming a trending hashtag on TikTok, a popular search on the global fashion platform Lyst and filling up Instagram feeds as of late. While the style dates back to the 1800s, it’s been reintroduced on the runway in recent years and gone from perplexing outfit addition you’d expect to find in quirky-leaning closets to an influencer-approved cold-weather staple.
For those who want to feel the ear-and-neck-warming benefits of balaclava but don’t know where to start in terms of picking one that suits your aesthetic and lifestyle, we turned to designer Eliza Faulkner. She launched her namesake contemporary label, which is produced locally and ethically in Montréal, in 2012, and introduced balaclavas this winter using scrap pieces from tops and sweaters.
“Being in Montréal, it’s so cold here, so I designed them as more of a practical thing,” Faulkner says, adding that she was happy to use up the extra fabric. “I do think it’s having its peak moment, but it’s also really practical, especially in a place as cold as Montréal when you have so many layers on already. It’s nice to just throw one thing on.”
Faulkner’s frilly and functional balaclavas are made using a soft, warm blend of wool and Tencel. They’re super lightweight, which Faulkner argues makes them the perfect playful layering piece.
“I love ruffles and frills and bows, so we’re always trying to find ways of making things a bit more feminine or a little bit more extra. That’s why we wanted to have that little ruffle,” she says. “Then you can pull the hat down and it’s a pretty scarf detail.”
For inspiration on how to wear them, Faulkner turns to her followers, Etsy and some other local brands, such as BB Balaclava, which makes chunkier styles that are “color-blocked and made-to-order, so you can choose the colors you want and they have a big pompom on the top,” she says. “I love those for a really bold statement balaclava.”
Since Faulkner knows a thing or two about cold-weather dressing, she shared a few tips on how to style balaclavas this winter. Read on for her expert advice (and to shop some of our favorite styles).
First Things First: Pick Your Coverage
There are many different balaclava varieties — some cover your mouth, some let your whole face breathe but cover your ears. The lighter-weight ones are better for milder winters and allow for more creativity when styling. Those with eye holes that can double as ski masks are better for harsher weather conditions; they also require minimal styling effort because they go well with any coat.
Layer It Up
Faulkner’s balaclavas are made with a very fine fabric so you can layer them easily. She suggests throwing a hat on top for added warmth. If you want a more seamless look, stick to one color for both the hat and balaclava.
Pair It With Statement Sunnies
Why not draw more attention to the only visible area of your face? Balaclavas make for the perfect sunglasses spotlight.
Use It as a Pop of Color
If you’re dealing with the all-too-common winter blues, which can manifest in a series of boring black outfits, balaclavas make for a colorful quick fix. Add a patterned or bright neon option when wearing a classic black leather jacket or quilted topper.
Ahead, shop some of our favorite balaclavas for winter.
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