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Balaclava

Headwarmer with Crimean War origins

A balaclava, also known as a balaclava helmet or ski mask, is a form of knitted headwear that covers the whole head, leaving only part of the face exposed. Often only the eyes or eyes and mouth are left exposed.

Origins

The name ‘balaclava’ comes from the town of Balaklava, near Sevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine. During the Crimean War, knitted balaclavas were sent over to the British troops to help protect them from the bitter cold weather. However, according to Richard Rutt, the name ‘balaclava helmet’ did not first appear in print during the Crimean War, but only much later, in 1881. This type of headgear was also known in the 19th century as an Uhlan cap or a Templar cap.

Modern Americans serving in the armed forces usually refer to them as ‘helmet liners’. They are traditionally knitted from wool, and can be rolled up into a hat to cover just the crown of the head.

Famous balaclava wearers

  • Fonejacker
  • Captain Robert Falcon Scott CVO
  • Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton CVO, OBE