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Heads are turning over AW18's balaclava trend

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In days gone by, balaclavas were used as a tool for shelter, providing British troops with protection and warmth during the bitter cold weather. It's a message of protection and safety that maintains resonance with the trends' AW18 revival. 

Fashion has always sparked controversial debates and opinions when it comes to statement trends, and this is no exception. Balaclavas appeared across AW18 catwalks, with Calvin Klein, Alexander Wang, Gucci, Preen and Versace united in stating - there is a message to be heard, and fashion is the one telling it.

Raf Simmons, chief creative officer at Calvin Klein, noted ‘feeling safe’ is a key message behind the catwalk trend, where balaclavas will metaphorically provide us with the protection required to survive in our current turbulent political landscape. Be it President Trump, Brexit, or threats of terror, it's evident that politics is playing a large role in the way we dress.

However, during a time of high alert and suspicion, might this resurgence of balaclavas be somewhat counter-intuitive to the fashion world's intended message of 'safety'? Like many articles worn or paintings examined, there's another side to any story. And in the case of balaclavas, it the darker side of concealment.

It is evident that although the accessory holds good intentions, its reputation has been tarnished by its darker uses in criminal and terror related activities, where concealment is not a friend but a foe to the wider public - flashback to 2013, when Phoebe Luckhurst was forced to reassure police officers after publicly donning the wooley accessory. 

Though endorsed by celebrities such as Rihanna, this is not a trend we expect to be embraced by everyone.

For years the fashion industry has controversially been criticised for its exclusion of women from various races, ethnicities, and religions and its therefore lack of diversity during an age of increasing calls for inclusion.

Where Calvin Klein’s message behind balaclavas was safety, the covered heads during Versace were to intentionally reflect the differing cultures of the world, indicating fashion's attempts at becoming more inclusive and appealing to a global market of various cultures and religious faiths.

Might we instead then, come to at least tolerate this trend, as one that states 'fashion is no longer a western market, everyone is welcome'?

While increasing inclusivity is a vital step forwards for the industry, by appealing to the various religious limitations which many women must abide by (such as covering heads and visible skin), it may be argued that fashion is losing its freewill and rebellious nature.

This is an opinion held strongly by the Yves Saint Laurent co-founder Pierre Berge, who argues that by catering towards the religious restrictions of fashion, women are still enslaved to norms and structures where freewill should be dominant. =

Though open to varying degrees of opinion, the debate on balaclavas demonstrates fashion is currently driven by the political climate, where the public desire for safety and inclusion are symbolic.

So what's the verdict? Should we welcome this most controversial of 2018's trends?

In short yes. Much like art, fashion is reflective of a belief or series of beliefs which are held at a given period, the fact both perspectives are open to controversial opinions demonstrates the fashion industry is correct to address such motivations.

Of course, we don't expect balaclavas to solve all our fears regarding safety in the current climate, and nor will they drastically change opinions regarding inclusivity in the industry or beyond. Yet the trend does open the debate regarding social sentiments, calling for a new appreciation that the covered faces we see, whether through hijab’s, burka’s or other coverings, are faces which mean us no harm.  

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