Time to reclaim the balaclava from the paramilitaries

<em>Picture: Vlad Genie</em>
Picture: Vlad Genie
Where have all the balaclavas gone? Back in the 1970s, sledging without a balaclava was almost unheard of.

I must admit, I had a red one with a bobble on the top and, not only was it distinctly uncool, it provided a far-too-visible target for snowballs. But all children had them then, or they seemed to have them anyway so I wasn’t that different from the rest.

Indeed, I can still remember the taste of damp wool and ice-balled snow from the bit which covered my mouth and the sense of security whenever a snowball hit the covering on back of my neck – because it would bounce off without troubling me in the least.

But then came the paramilitaries, the bank robbers and other assorted criminals and, suddenly, the balaclava was out of fashion: not necessarily with children themselves but certainly with their parents and then, latterly, with the authorities.

The persecution of the balaclava reached its nadir when, in August 2008, the police apparently confiscated a copy of the controversial War on Terror board game because, it was claimed, the balaclava it contained “could be used to conceal someone’s identity or could be used in the course of a criminal act”.

But given that we are currently enduring an unusually long stretch of cold weather and on the basis of predictions suggesting long cold winters may be something we shall have to get used to, isn’t it time to reclaim the balaclava?

They are still around. You can still buy them on the high street and online but I have been out sledging with my children for the past three weeks near our house and have yet to see anybody in a balaclava.

They are warm, they are comfortable, they keep your neck, chin, mouth and cheeks warm and they stop snowballs.

And although they started off in the Crimean War (named after the town of Balaklava), they are now used across a range of fields: some motorcyclists wear them, racing drivers wear them, special forces personnel wear them as do some snowboarders and skiers.

So why not give them to children? They are so warm, they can help the children stay out sledging for hours longer than they would do with a normal hat – and give them the chance to go on to raid the local post office when they’re done.

On second thoughts, maybe they aren’t such a good idea after all ….