Welcome to Refinery29’s So, How Is It Really? where we take a look at all of the topics that have the internet talking. In studying them up close, we answer the question of what it’s really like to try out a trend, a viral product, or an unexpected TikTok hack.
In the last six months, there’s been no bigger winter trend than the balaclava. The cosy accessory has been spotted on runways — with designers ranging from Miu Miu and Raf Simons to Marine Serre — and has flooded search queries. Really: Searches for “crochet balaclava” are up by 1000% according to Google Trends. The balaclava is also this season's most sought-after item as reported by global fashion shopping platform Lyst. Miu Miu’s crochet hood and face covering and Stone Island’s ribbed wool balaclava landed on the top 10 hottest products list for women and men, respectively.
On Instagram, we’re seeing the winter-weather accessory on the feeds of fashion influencers everywhere. Meanwhile, on TikTok, #balaclava has over 132 million views. Style aside, the one thing a lot of these posts have in common is they’re often modelled on people with straight or wavy hair. So, it got me thinking, What’s it like to wear a balaclava as someone with big natural hair? If I put it on, would it mess up my hair the minute I took it off? Would I have to either blow out or slick back my 3C/ 4A curls into a bun in order to pull off this trend? To find out what it’s really like, I enlisted the (now-sold-out) Aritzia Sunday Best Frederick Balaclava in “Guava Pink.”
My first impression was there couldn’t be a way to fit all of my hair in all of its voluminous glory into the balaclava without looking like Megamind. But, I went ahead, even though it pained me (and my freshly styled hair) to put a fabric other than satin directly on my curls. To my surprise, as I began to put it on, the material compressed my hair down enough to create a hooded shape. I paid more attention to the backside and neck to even out the bumpy areas of tucked hair. I left some of my curls peeking out the front to frame my face as a styling choice.
With my balaclava on, I was ready to take on one of Toronto’s coldest days. I wore an all-black outfit made up of cargo pants, a fleece quarter-zip, thick-framed sunglasses, and a puffer jacket sans hood to go out for a walk and run some errands. I was toasty even in a negative temperature and treated the balaclava as the star of my outfit. It was comfortable until I had to put on my face mask to enter stores which became a bit of a hassle, especially as I tried to manoeuvre the mask ear loops through my tangled hair. If all the back-and-forth is not for you, then I’d recommend trying a ski mask-like balaclava that covers your nose and mouth for ease.
When the time came to remove it later that day, I pulled the balaclava off by stretching the sides as wide as possible to minimise frizz. My hair was flattened but it was nothing a little zhoosh couldn’t fix. The only downside was the fabric soaked up some hair product which left my curls feeling a bit dry. I went into this experiment fully sure that I would have to slick my hair back (you know, “tone” it down). Instead, I made the trend work for me and the natural state of my hair. My hair grows sideways and upwards, and not every style may be worth hopping on, but the balaclava made me love on my curls just a little more.
Overall, I can definitely see myself wearing the balaclava more often. It’s a cute accessory that also works as an easy way to update your wardrobe without breaking the bank on new winter gear.