Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Let’s talk about the *problems* with TikTok’s balaclava trend

Friday, February 25, 2022
Graphic created by Nicolette Baker

Hi gal pals!

I knowwww we usually discuss a *silly lil fashion trend,* but today’s a teeny bit different. Lately, my Insta Reels page has been fillllllled with videos of balaclavas, silky headscarves and other head coverings. It made me think — considering the discrimination and harrassment Muslim women face for wearing hijabs, is this trend a bit problematic?

We chatted a lil about this in a column last year – but scarves have been pushed *evennn* more into the mainstream this year. Input magazine’s story, “The hypocrisy behind the balaclavas Kanye and Kim Kardashian love,” addresses some of these concerns at both a celeb and everyday level.

When white individuals don a head covering that’s similar to a hijab without recognizing the challenges women who wear hijabs face, that’s a major issue.

I sat down with my friend, J, to chat about her own opinions on this TikTok fashion trend. While she (of course!) can’t speak for all Muslim individuals, her perspectives shed some light on this trending topic. J is a Southeast student and Muslim woman; she said she has worn a hijab since she was 12 years old.

How did you first react when you saw the scarf or balaclava trend on TikTok?

I saw it sometime during September or October. There was that one transition on TikTok where they’re driving with the hood down, and it transitions to them wearing a scarf to protect their hair from the wind. That is the first time I saw it.

When I saw that video, I assumed people underneath it would be commenting things like, “Are you Muslim?,” “Are you oppressed?” or “Why are you doing this? You look like a terrorist.”

Those were not the comments I saw. I saw, “Oh my God, girly, you look so good,” “Oh my God, this is going to become the new trend,” and, “Oh my God, this is such a good tip.” It was such a difference that I totally didn’t expect those comments — I expected something totally different.

If you go to a Muslim girl’s TikTok and you look at the comments, they’re like, “Why are you dressed that way?” or, “You don’t look good,” or, “Show some skin.”

Why can’t you give the same energy [in the first video] to Muslim women that are doing it for their own sake of modesty, for religion, for God, while others are doing it just for fashion?

Do you think it’s ignorance [of the differences between religion and fashion], or do you think people just don’t care?

I think it’s both. I think a lot of people know it’s going on, but a lot of them are bathing in ignorance because they don’t care. I think not caring and ignorance go hand and hand — I’ve always said this. It’s a simple Google search. If you pay attention to even one day of news, you’ll understand what’s going on in the world. …

There’s several hundred styles of wearing a hijab: the head scarf trend, the balaclavas, most women wear that in their traditional countries. You can do that — it’s counted as a hijab. You can make it fashion as long as you understand there are people in the world who are being persecuted for wearing it.

Is it possible to wear hair scarves in a way that isn’t disrespectful? If so, how?

I think, if you can accept the fact that there are Muslim women in the world who are being told to take their hijab off, or being told you can’t wear what you wear, and if they can acknowledge that and spread awareness about it, then they can participate in the trends that they want to.

But, if you’re not actively supporting Muslim women who are doing this for the sake of God and for the sake of themselves, and you’re ignoring that and just doing it for the sake of fashion, I think that’s problematic.

So, that’s the bottom line, according to one Muslim woman: Educate yourself and show up for Muslim women. That’s it. Mic drop.

Let’s talk about it – catch me on Twitter at @nbakerARROW and @nicolette.baker_ on Instagram.