The Ski Mask Trend: From Tyler, The Creator And Twenty One Pilots To Jay Z And Beyonce

Jay Z and Beyonce wear ski masks for their On The Run tour poster.
Photo: @beyonce’s Instagram

I’m not sure how many instances it takes to be able to officially dub something a “trend,” but I’m pretty confident, we can call ribbed ski masks a ~thing~ at this point. If not just now, then much, much earlier. You’ve probably seen it by now, but Jay Z and Beyonce are touring together (!!!) and the poster they released yesterday in promotion of the their On the Run joint tour depicts the power couple in matching black ski masks. The knit face coverings are, yes, a throwback to your “’03 Bonnie and Clyde” Hov and Bey, but they’re also one more stop on the seemingly never-ending train of celebs wearing ski masks. What’s that you say? You didn’t know ski masks were trendy? OMG, don’t worry, I’ll catch you up.


Tyler, the Creator performs in a ski mask.
Photo: Getty Images

I know Tyler, the Creator didn’t invent the ski mask, nor does he bogart it as a signature, but he’s one of the earliest sightings of a ski mask I can recall from recent times.


Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots performs in a ski mask at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards.
Photo: Getty Images

Also, you may have just heard about Twenty One Pilots thanks to their high-energy performance at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards, but their ski masks were not a nod to Spring Breakers or to Russian punk band Pussy Riot (more on both later). They’re a hallmark steez for the band and have been for years.


A still from Frank Ocean’s ’Swim Good’ video.
Photo: Def Jam Records

Combining the face-covering leanings of his Odd Future compatriot Tyler and the SpiritHood’s spike in popularity, Frank Ocean kept the ski mask alive with this panda version in his “Swim Good video.


Kreayshawn poses in a leopard ski mask.
Photo: Courtesy of Kreayshawn’s Instagram

Kreayshawn pulled a similar move with this leopard mask soon after. At this point (roughly fall of 2011), the ski mask was still a novelty, relegated to performance tricks and animal cosplay.


Pussy Riot in their signature balaclavas.
Photo: Getty Images

And then there was Pussy Riot. In February of 2012, this punk-rock protest group from Russia made international headlines when they staged and anti-Putin performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Their colorful balaclava aren’t so much a fashion statement as they are a functional means to conceal the band members’ identities from authorities.


Chinese women wear face-kinis on the beach.
Photo: Getty Images

Though they may look strikingly similar, these are not members of Pussy Riot on a beach trip. They’re Chinese women wearing “face-kinis” with their bathing suits to protect their mugs from sun damage.


The Gerlan Jeans Spring 2013 New York Fashion Week show closed with an homage to Pussy Riot.
Photo: Getty Images

Gerlan Jeans showed a girl (or, you know, Gerl) power-inspired collection for the brand’s Spring 2013 runway show. Amidst pink camouflage, oversized female symbols, and knee-high combat boots, there was a balaclava-clad finaleā€”an homage to Pussy Riot.


Vinny Cha$e performs in a “Chanel” ski mask.
Photo: @vchasenyc’s Instagram

Vinny Cha$e takes a different angle on the fashion ski mask with this Chanel-nodding interlocking-C logo face-covering. The look is so intrinsic to him that he released a small range of them for sale.


Kanye West wears a red mask to last night’s Maison Martin Margiela Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week show.
Photo: Splash News

Kanye West incorporated all kinds of masks into his Yeezus era steez, but this DIY red balaclava (with no mouth opening!), which he wore to a Maison Martin Margiela Paris Fashion Week show, was the first one he wore IRL when not onstage.


The ’Spring Breakers’ unicorn ski mask.
Photo: Opening Ceremony

If I had to pick one person, place, or thing that really propelled the ski mask into the current cultural vernacular though, it would have to be Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. Starring teen queens Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Benson in transformative, boundary-pushing roles, the movie is a must-see, if only for that masked Britney scene. Plus, the movie launched its own clothing collection with Opening Ceremony.


Frank Ocean and Sky Ferreira wears ski masks at the 2013 Met Gala.
Photo: @riccardotisci17’s Instagram

Frank Ocean even wore one of the Spring Breakers x OC unicorn masks. With a balaclava-wearing Sky Ferriera. At the Met Gala. That’s major. And was a major turning point for the ski mask. From this point, it picked up more steam than ever.


Justin Bieber wears a Chanel logo ski mask.
Photo: Courtesy of @JustinBieber’s Instagram

Justin Bieber even had a go at the trend with one of Vinny Cha$e’s “Chanel” masks.


Cara Delevingne leaves the Burberry show in a ski mask.
Photo: Getty Images

Cara Delevingne wore one on her way out of a Burberry London Fashion Week show. We’re guessing from the big smile and wave that it wasn’t to conceal her identity.


Beyonce wears a ski mask from Jay Z’s collection for Barneys.
Photo: @beyonce’s Instagram

Even before this On the Run poster, Bey wore two (TWO!) ski masks. The first was this chunky-knit-patterned joint designed by her husband. The second boasted a Louis Vuitton logo.


Schoolboy Q wears a ski mask on the cover of his ’Oxymoron’ album.
Photo: Interscope Records

Which brings us to 2014. Just before Hov and Bey’s tour announcement, Schoolboy Q released Oxymoron with album art depicting the rapper wearing a white ski mask beneath a terrycloth bucket hat. So far, he hasn’t incorporated the look into his world tour, so maybe Mr. and Mrs. Carter won’t have any ski-mask competition this summer? Guess we’ll have to wait and see if the face coverings make it into Lady Gaga and/or Katy Perry’s tour wardrobes.

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