Recently, I’ve been struck by a gut feeling that something has been missing each time I bundle up to go outside. It’s not unlike the feeling I get after I eat a savory meal and realize I’m not within spitting distance of a piece of chocolate. It hit me hardest the other day when Leandra posted this photo on Instagram with the caption, “Welcome back balaclava season”:
A winter head accessory! That was the missing hint of sweetness to top off (literally) my outfit. But was the balaclava that awaited in my closet, tucked away after last February’s final frost, up to the task? The task, that is, of reigning supreme as the pinnacle of trendy winter hat options? Let me answer that question with another question: What comes after the balaclava trend?
The balaclava is a hard one to beat. Not only does it provide maximum, polar vortex-appropriate warmth, but it also packs a serious style punch, turning an outfit as mundane as sweatpants and a sweater into a FUN! LOOK!, which is not easily accomplished in temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. But that’s not to say balaclavas are without flaws. I have a few ‘clava gripes I’d like to publicly air, such as the fact that they are fundamentally incompatible with big, curly hair. They both suffocate said hair and cause friction, a.k.a. the collective enemies of curls trying to be their most luscious selves. My other main gripe is that balaclavas itch my face and neck. There! I said it.
So while I have enjoyed their warmth-providing, outfit-augmenting capabilities, I wouldn’t be mad about an alternative option, and since I haven’t seen convincing evidence that one is being brewed for me courtesy of the trend powers that be, I’ve taken it upon myself to cultivate one with vigorous intention, and by that I mean pester my coworkers to see if they had any salient leads. A few kind souls did me the courtesy of answering my passionate slack query (“WHAT COMES AFTER THE BALACLAVA ??????”):
“A thick headband,” Elizabeth responded. “Something equivalent to ear muffs.”
“I feel like it could be a moment for a wide fleece headband,” Max agreed.
I was totally on board, until I happened to go for a run on an extremely chilly morning last week, wearing none other than a fleece runner’s headband. It looked kind of cool, I had to admit, and it kept me warm enough while I was running, but as soon as I hopped off the West Side Highway and started walking the rest of the way back to my apartment (at what was admittedly a glacial pace), the top of my head protested. I was still cold! I didn’t just want to be encircled, I wanted to be cocooned! So what to do? What to wear?
Like most miraculous answers, this one came from an unexpected source–a press release from a Ukrainian outerwear brand called Ienki Ienki that landed in my inbox, featuring images from their Fall/Winter 2019 campaign. One of the photos depicted a model wearing a big green puffer jacket and a bright orange puffer kerchief tied around her head. The moment I saw it, I knew it was the winter head accessory we needed, one that would keep us cocooned without pestering our hair and make a stylistic statement simultaneously. I called in a sample to try it out, and reader, I was not disappointed:
A similar pufferkerchief (this is what we should call it, right?) effect can be achieved with any detachable hood on a winter coat, but here’s another sold separately in a bunch of colors for $24.99 from Carhartt for your consideration.
What do you think? Are you down to clown with this concept??? Meet me in the comments to discuss.