A balaclava, balaclava helmet or ski mask is a form of headgear covering the whole head, exposing only the face (and often only the eyes). The name "balaclava" comes from the town of Balaklava in Crimea. During the Crimean War, knitted balaclavas were sent over to the British troops to help protect them from the bitter cold weather. They are traditionally knitted from wool, and can be rolled up into a hat to cover just the crown of the head. Modern balaclavas can be made from a number of materials, such as silk, cotton, polypropylene, neoprene, wool or fleece. Modern balaclavas are also used in outdoor winter sports activities such as skiing or snowboarding to help protect the face from the cold wind and maintain warmth.
Additionally, balaclavas are often associated with special forces units such as the SAS, or alternately with muggers, terrorists, and activists, where they act as a form of disguise. In the UK the term IRA balaclava is often used to distinguish it from similar types of headwear.
Racing drivers may also wear balaclavas made of fire-retardant material underneath their crash helmets in order to improve protection in case of a fire following an accident, and commonly cover the nose and mouth to reduce inhalation of smoke and fumes. Dragster-racing drivers usually wear balaclavas which have just two separate eyeholes because of the increased fire risk.
AKA Ski Mask, Balaclava Helmet