By now we can all agree that masks have inserted themselves in the “things to grab before leaving the house” routine and have become an additional item in your shopping list along with shampoo or chips ‘n’ dip (Is it just me? Ok.). Whether it started as a personal choice or because it is mandated by law, sentiments about wearing a mask have changed greatly since the beginning of the pandemic; from colour matching it to your outfit or switching to a (somewhat) stylish, reusable one.
We already touched upon how masks are gradually becoming a fashion or statement piece back in August, and after the crafty e-commerce platform Etsy sold 12 million masks in April 2020, stylists and designers were quick to jump on the bandwagon. Celebrities were also seen embracing the look throughout award shows and red carpets; although Lady Gaga states she was using face coverings “before it was a thing.” I think we can all agree that she’s an iconic trendsetter.
The artist, in true avant gardiste fashion, accepted her 2020 MTV VMA awards and performed wearing not one, not two – but four different face coverings by
designers like Maison Met and Cecilio Castrillo. It gave us the feeling that the fashion industry may be en route to embracing the pandemic and turning a negative into an expression of art. Either that or it was just Naomi Campbell’s hazmat suit at the airport that made designers sweat and fumble for new money-making ideas to sell.
A couple months after, singer Billie Eilish walked the 2020 Grammys red carpet in a green Gucci face mask and bucket hat to match, designer and Black excellence Virgil Abloh released eight different designs as part of his Spring/Summer 2020 collection for Off-White. The brand received criticism regarding the actual efficiency of the masks, but that didn’t stop the masks from being quickly snatched off virtual shelves. Others were released by French designer Marine Serre, who is known to have made face masks before the pandemic even started, which sold out immediately.
Similarly to a nice bag or piece of jewelry, it’s easy to understand how a mask can be turned into a fashion statement since it became necessary and mandatory. I myself go for either black or white for simplicity and for days without makeup, which is basically everyday. I try my best to coordinate it with my sweatpants on my grocery run. As you can see, I am clearly a fashion innovateur, but when I read that the brand Burberry released facemasks priced at $160 CAD, made using fabric scraps from their iconic beige checker pattern, I wondered if going to such lengths (and expenses) for fashion was actually necessary. I understand, however, how designers would introduce face coverings as the new must-have accessory and profit off affluent fashion enthusiasts if masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
If you feel somewhat concerned and responsible, you can always shop local at smaller retailers in your area or buy handmade products online rather than from giants like Uniqlo, Gap, and Adidas. Face masks were even widely used as a statement piece for movements like Black Lives Matter, or with a comedic spin with messages like “If you’re reading this you’re too close.” Silk masks even became popular after maskne – acne caused by masks – and how to fight it became an overgrowing concern.
Will masks become a thing of the past once we “return to normal” or will they remain in our routines for extra style and added protection? Let us know what you think in the comments below. In the meantime, remember that wearing a mask, even non-surgical, and washing your hands along with social distancing are the best things we can do to keep ourselves and each other safe.
Moroccan in Toronto seeking to revitalize our thousand-year-old tradition of storytelling, or 'hikayat', one article at a time. Public relations professional, poetry lover, latte aficionado, and student of life. My motto is "Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight".