Sunday, January 18, 2015

Balaclavas - No, Not Baklava!

Warning: For those of you who are looking for a posting on Greek desserts, you'll be sorely disappointed. We're showing off our wonderful, colorful, fanciful balaclavas from Diesel!

To tell you this story, we have to go back to October, 2013, when Valerie saw this mannequin in Fendi's window.  We are advocates for faux fur, so this was off limits to us, but Valerie definitely coveted the look.

Fast forward to September, 2014, when Valerie saw this in Diesel's display window.  There it was again, but this time in a faux fur mohawk, and with a sense of humor to boot.  The reflections made it impossible to photograph well, but you get the idea.

There was a red one with pom poms too, but that one was absolutely impossible to photograph without all sorts of visual static, so this one, in the color of real fur, would have to do.  Valerie inquired inside, and was told that the hats would be available for sale after Fashion Week.  She went back after Fashion Week, and was told they'd be available after Thanksgiving, as a gift, with a major purchase.  She went back after Thanksgiving, they were gone, and no one knew anything.

But we have our sources, and just last week, Valerie managed to score exactly the pair of hats we wanted.  Couldn't wait to show you!

The fascinating history of balaclavas (because we knew you'd ask): The name comes from the Battle of Balaclava, fought during the Crimean war. In 1854, the Russians were fighting the British and the French at Balaclava, to protect its naval port on the Black Sea. Handmade balaclavas were sent to British troops to protect them against the bitter cold weather.

Balaclavas are popular in winter sports because they protect the face from the wind and maintain warmth. In addition to downhill skiers, snow boarders and snowmobilers, Formula-1 race car drivers also wear them, but not to keep warm.  The drivers wear flame retardant balaclavas under their crash helmets (and similarly treated long johns) to protect them in fiery crashes. To replace fluids lost during the 2-hour races, drivers sip liquids through tubes through the mask. This shot of F-1 driver Nico Rosberg donning his balaclava illustrates the point.

Football players often wear them under their helmets to keep warm in winter. Even baseball players wear them, as this photo of Chicago Cubs Alberto Gonzalez and Starlin Castro shows -- for a game played in Chicago on April 11, 2013!  (Note the diverse styling: to show the mouth?  Or not to show the mouth?)

And of course, Ninja warriors in their traditional hooded masks or balaclavas are familiar images thanks to video games.

Now, back to our story!  For those of you who don't know, Jean adores hats with ears and Valerie abhors about 90% of them. So it was especially satisfying to Jean that Valerie got her this particular hat which does reference a certain female rodent cartoon character who hangs out with a male counterpart in the Disneysphere!

It is, however, difficult to look like a sophisticated and knowledgeable woman of the world when wearing a hat with big red faux fur pom poms which move when you do (sort of like a strip tease dancer's tassles, or so we've been told!).

And here is Valerie, wearing a huge blue mohawk that at certain angles gives her a distinctly Marge Simpson air!  (Valerie scoffs:  That's Jean's take on it, 'cause she's concentrating on the color.  I say it's the blue haired little old lady version of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver.  Those of you our age will remember LOTS of little old ladies with blue hair.  Those of you who are half our age will say 'huh?'  But yes, back when we were young and many older women felt uncomfortable with gray hair, for some reason they thought a blue tint would mask the gray.  [To that, we say 'huh?']  Anyway, this is the updated little old lady with blue hair look.)

Readers, we wanted to take photos of these hilarious hats with appropriate outdoor backdrops for you today, but if you have been watching the weather, you know it rained ALL DAY in New York City.  How could we take these out in the rain???!!!  But,  as you can see, we had a little fun with them indoors.  Here's Jean having fun (channeling her inner Leigh Bowery!):

And Valerie having fun:

For comparison purposes, Jean got us some real life Ninja balaclavas. (Jean says: Here's where living in Manhattan is a definite bonus.  I just went from one outdoor vendor to another on St. Mark's Place and compared a variety of Ninja paraphernalia and picked up two of the cheapest, lightest weight, stretchable ones!) Probably to protect the wearer's identity and to better disguise oneself in darkness, they only have an opening for the eyes.

While they may be the cat's meow in certain martial arts circles, you can, however, immediately see that these present certain serious lifestyle drawbacks for a couple of fashionistas of a certain age. The absolute worst is - how in heaven's name can you be expected to drink your cocktails while wearing one of these thingamajigs?  Another serious flaw is - how do wear your earrings?  Valerie managed to clip her blue polka-dot clip-ons to her balaclava, but move your head just an inch in either direction, and you're courting disaster.  Jean had more luck with her pierced earrings, hooking the wires through the balaclava knit. One must careful, however, to avoid entangling the earring and ripping a hole in the balaclava.  That could throw quite a monkey wrench in your styling decisons.

Hope you enjoy reading this half as much as we enjoyed making it!  Ciao, dahlings.  Til next time.


  1. You two need to have your own comedy show ;) Cute and cozy, you are. Love the balaclavas - very practical for the weather we've been having. Only you two would think of wearing your earrings on the outside - the most stylish Ninjas ever. XX

  2. Spectacular! I enjoyed every photo and your process, of course accompanied by your outrageous sense of humor. I especially loved "The End.!"

  3. mwahaha!! fabulous post and fabulous balaclavas! such funky accessories!!