Men's balaclavas keep the head warm while protecting the face at the same time. Depending on the style, the front of the face, or just the eyes, nose and mouth, are the only areas not protected by the balaclava.
Styles where the front of the face is unprotected can also be worn as normal hats when the bottom part is rolled up to the top of the head. These can also be rolled in the other direction to become a neck warmer or just expose the full face for it to become a snood.
Balaclavas are often used by winter sports enthusiasts as well as motorcyclists because of the way they protect you from the wind and keep you warm.
Traditionally, men's balaclavas were knitted from wool. Today's modern men's balaclavas are made from a variety of materials: wool, silk, cotton, polyester, fleece or a mix of other synthetic materials.
These modern materials mean that men's balaclavas are lightweight but still keep you warm. Fabrics such as fleece when they do get wet, will dry very quickly which makes it great for outdoor gear especially in our damp, and often wet, climate.
Men's balaclavas are often 'one size fits all' but you can find certain styles and brands which offer small, medium, large and extra-large.
Black, grey, green and blue are the most popular shades but you'll find men's balaclavas in a wide range of colours including versions of camouflage.
Why are they called balaclavas?
During the Crimean War in 1854, the weather was bitterly cold. The British troops were very short of supplies of warm clothing so handknitted hats of this style were sent out to them. Balaclava is the site of one of the major battles of the Crimean Wars, although this name was not used for this style of hat until the 1880s.