As a result of COVID-19, face masks have become ubiquitous— as essential to an outfit these days as a pair of shoes. This is primarily because—in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a recommendation that U.S. citizens wear face coverings in places where social distancing is particularly difficult. In the early stages of the pandemic, surgical masks seemed to be the default, as the baby–blue coverings were worn by the masses like a macabre uniform of sorts. But the CDC has clarified that people should refrain from using and purchasing surgical masks or N95 respirators—as those masks should be saved for healthcare workers—and to instead opt for cloth face coverings.
People have subsequently started to rummage through their closets, pulling out old bandanas and scarves, wrapping them around their faces like makeshift westernized kafias. Many have even made their own coverings, some using whatever they find in their house—inspired by the U.S. Surgeon General’s tutorial in which he uses just a t-shirt and two rubber bands—and others going the extra mile and actually sewing.
As a result of the increasing demand, popular brands have also started producing and selling masks, some solely to send to essential workers, but others with the intention of transforming the utilitarian item into a fashionable accessory for the masses. Even Kim Kardashian is capitalizing on the burgeoning market by selling masks through her shapewear brand SKIMS. At first glance, it may seem distasteful for brands to be profiting off of this demand, decorating the protective gear with lighthearted patterns such as Hello Kitty or Donuts. Turning the mask into a cute accessory can seem incongruous with the serious reason we’re supposed to wear them.
But on the other hand, if we are forced to wear masks, why not make them fun and aesthetically pleasing? If having a trendy faux snakeskin mask serves as an incentive for someone to cover their face, we should encourage them to make that purchase and wear it with pride. And though occasionally overpriced, the fact that big brands—like SKIMS, Madewell, Gap and Banana Republic, to name a few—are now selling masks to meet the public’s pressing need is a testament to how the virus has impacted all parts of society and has inspired many to step up and help the greater good.
So, if you’re interested in acquiring more stylish safety attire, here are some places to purchase non–surgical masks that might make covering up a little more bearable for the time being.
Some brands have even pledged the proceeds of their mask sales to various COVID-19 relief funds, giving their products a purpose that transcends their wear. Re/Done, for example, is donating five masks for every one sold to those risking their lives on the front lines. Similarly, 20% of mask sales from American Eagle will go to Crisis Text Line. Gap plans to donate 50,000 masks to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada. For a more extensive list of companies turning their mask production into a form of charity, check out this page.
Wearing a mask, be it plain or funky, sends a message of solidarity to the handful of strangers you may pass on the street (if you're allowed to go out and about, that is). It tells them you care—not just about your health, but about theirs too.