Of Face Masks and Fashion: How the Pandemic Made Masks the New Accessory
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, cities around the world shut down, and people were forced to quarantine for days and weeks. For the fashion industry, it was no less than a disaster, as who would think about shopping for that great jacket or the next hip sneaker when there was a virus out here spreading like wildfire. However, the pandemic brought forth a new addition to fashion: face masks.
Before the pandemic, face coverings in fashion were an almost non-existing accessory. Those who needed masks, like those working in healthcare, construction, or factories, simply wore surgical masks. They were good enough to get the job done, and no one really saw masks as a fashion accessory until everyone was forced to wear one.
Brands were quick to recognize the hidden opportunity in a rather deteriorating situation. Those surgical masks were gradually being replaced by fun, printed masks and even some with logos or embroidery.
A Glimpse of Joy
Masks became a symbol of the pandemic and all its gloom, as there were mask mandates in many cities and states. However, fashion companies switched the green and blue fabric to something fun and positive. Some were even printing masks with messages of hope, equality, and tolerance.
What was once something forced on people became a fashion choice. From mass retailers to sportswear manufacturers to luxury brands, everyone wanted a piece of the action.
The New Normal for Men and Women's Fashion
While many trends are specific in terms of gender, face masks impacted both men's and women's fashion. Many masks on the market are unisex and one-size. Since many face masks include elastic bands, they are easily adjustable.
But it's not just men and women that got a major wardrobe upgrade; kids too dominate the face mask market. Of course, children require smaller sizes, so their masks are different from men's and women's. However, children's masks incorporated kid-friendly prints like cartoons or superheroes.
The Question About Functionality
Even though the fashion world was quick to embrace face masks as an essential yet trendy accessory, many manufacturers and brands didn't pay enough attention to the efficacy of masks. That goes to show that many of these brands deemed face masks as more of an accessory than a protective gear, which wasn't quite practical at the time when the pandemic was widespread, and vaccines were still in development.
That's not to say that all masks are bad. While the N95 is considered the most effective against the virus, some cloth masks, especially those with a valve, offer adequate protection from pathogens.
That said, the concern for functionality has dwindled as the pandemic has slowed down significantly and mask mandates lifted. Today, face masks have become purely a choice, one that also doubles as a fashion accessory.
Face Masks are Here to Stay
Considering the protective properties and the normalization of wearing face masks, this accessory is very much here to stay. Whether you're commuting to work or going to a public event, wearing a face mask would be a pretty normal thing. You can match it with the rest of your ensemble or keep it simple with the good old solid black mask.
By Jessica Thomas