Nike criticized for selling ‘menacing’ $92 balaclava

Nike has been denounced for selling a balaclava that looks "menacing," and which critics say could incite gang violence.

In one image posted widely on social media, a black model wears the balaclava, which covers his head and lower part of his face and extends to his chest. There are also straps worn on the chest that some on social media likened to a holster.

Commentator Paul Mckenzie posted a video on Facebook and stated: "You know these young people on the street adore these manufacturers, they buy everything that they sell. We look at images of young people on the street and they look menacing already, and so Nike decides to bring out a balaclava range which looks absolutely menacing. Maybe I'm getting old, maybe I'm a dinosaur, but this balaclava range looks like it's quite inciteful." The video has been watched 26,000 times.

The item was part of a collaboration with designer Matthew Williams, whose Alyx Studio label sells upscale bomber jackets for $635 and sweatshirts for $401.

The sold-out Nike x MMW balaclava is listed on the Alyx website at $92, but appears to be unlisted on Nike's website, which states: "The product you are looking for is no longer available." Other items in the Nike x MMW collection include more traditional sports items such as t-shirts, a sports bra and training pants, shown on the Alyx website, but are not currently on Nike's.

Another commentator posted on Twitter: "This is not right @nike @nikelondon. I think you've made a big mistake on this one, targeting the current gang culture for profit."

Balaclavas featured on fashion runways in February, with Calvin Klein showing knitted versions for women and Alexander Wang showing sporty versions with boiler suits and heels.

When contacted by CNBC, Nike confirmed that the product was no longer listed on its website. A spokesperson said in an emailed statement: "These products were part of a wider Nike Training collection, styled on different models and available in multiple markets around the world. We are in no way condoning or encouraging the serious issue of criminal and gang culture."

This story has been updated to include a statement from Nike.