What are the origins of the balaclava?

Black balaclavaA balaclava is a very popular garment during winter, on winter sports vacations and as an attribute for a great number of sports. You can wear a balaclava in multiple ways, depending on the part of the face you want to be protected.

Perhaps you didn’t realise that balaclavas have a very interesting history. As a matter of fact they were invented in the nineteenth century and used for the first time during the Crimean War!


A balaclava covers all of your head (except for the eyes), but you can wear it also like a cap, a scarf or you can protect only part of your face with this practical item. Although balaclavas were originally knitted from wool, a modern balaclava can consist of all kinds of material. This type of mask is also known as a ski or snowboard mask.

Origin of the balaclava

Balaclavas were used for the first time during the Crimean War (1853-1856). This was a war between the Russians on one side and the French, British, Sardinians and Ottomans on the other. In 1854 the battle of Balaclava was fought and after that battle “balaclava” became the name for this type of headgear.

Especially the British soldiers were very glad with this new form of facial protection, because in the Ukraine – where the battle was fought – winters can be very harsh!

The importance of the balaclava

After the Crimean War balaclavas stayed immensely popular and up till now they’re still in use for a lot of activities like winter sports and in various roles in the army. The same goes for motorcyclists who see the balaclava as a crucial part of their equipment.

Skull balaclavaA biker often wears a balaclava underneath his crash helmet to expel cold, keep insects away from his face or to keep the lining of his helmet clean. Race car drivers are even required to wear a fire-resisting balaclava in case of an accident.

Function of the balaclava

You can use a balaclava for a variety of different purposes. You can wear it simply to keep your face warm during snowboarding or during a long hike through the mountains.

A balaclava is however also excellently suited to protect you during dangerous sports or – like some medical experts claim – to prevent asthmatic attacks during physical exertion.

Originally the balaclava was meant as a versatile garment with multifunctional uses. Notwithstanding all the modern adaptations, balaclavas are still valued as a very divers and practical article of dress.

Etymology of the balaclava

As earlier mentioned, the Crimean War was fought out mainly on the Crimean peninsula, which at the moment is part of Ukraine. Balaclava (sometimes spelled as Balaklava) was a little town near the city of Sevastopol where during this war all balaclavas were designed, produced and distributed to the British troops.

Are you looking for a balaclava? In that case check our extensive collection of balaclavas!
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