Have face masks become a fashion statement?

News editor Carl Smith Valdez investigates whether face masks have become a fashion statement amidst coronavirus.

Carl Smith Valdez
1st March 2020
Pexels by Alera Ruben
The British Fashion Council has anticipated designer face masks as the next trend feature amidst concerns over coronavirus. Attendees of the British Fashion Council Show Space have accessorised their masks with their outfits. For instance, one attendee has decorated ordinary face masks with arrows.

In the past, face masks have commonly been associated with medical practices. Doctors, nurses and patients use them to prevent acquiring infection from each other. However, face masks have extended into public spaces with the SARS epidemic of 2002 in China. Since then, they have been allied as a filter against airborne diseases and heavy air pollution. It is, therefore, no surprise that suppliers of masks have risen in relation to panic with the coronavirus outbreak.

Masks are now designed as social statements

However, experts have reported that there is insufficient evidence that suggests masks can protect the general public from unregulated viral illnesses. Masks do not prevent one from inhaling some small particles and leaves the eyes exposed. It is stressed that the basic measure of washing hands properly is still the best way to protect oneself from the epidemic. The ineffectiveness of masks is easily ingrained into fashion brands. Blended with rhinestones, or majorly made of mesh, fashion show masks are now designed as social statements instead of health-related reasons.

Image Source: @bellahadid on Instagram

Face masks as a fashion statement are nothing new. In 2014, Masha Maand Yin Peng, a Chinese designer sent models down the aisle with Haute face masks. More recently, Billy Eilish has worn a Gucci face mask at the Grammy Awards. This blended perfectly with her green manicure and her black pyjama embroidered with green Gucci logos. By tailoring masks into an outfit, fashion and political messages coincide. It commodifies epidemic diseases through branding. Nowadays, corporate brands do not simply sell products; they can equally serve as a symbol for solidarity to those affected by the virus. Masks have extended from protection to becoming a commentary to contemporary issues.

On the surface, it is totally unimaginable how accessories can make a solid statement. Yet, the mask’s aesthetics and uniqueness leave spectators to contemplate for themselves. In this way, masks become political with one’s personal thoughts and collective discussions surrounding the new trend.

In an era where attention is scarce, celebrities and fashion can become a strong pathway to bringing light into issues that permeates over coronavirus. For instance, verified social media influencers such as @Ronnaldong on Instagram took photos of themselves with masks as creative expression for various racism faced by the Asian community. If used sensibly, masks can be a tool for understanding, inclusivity and societal progress. They can challenge preconceived notions to minorities, eradicating ignorance and misinformation.

Image Source: @ronaldong on Instagram

Face masks have undoubtedly become a part of the fashion industry worldwide. Masks are no longer only intended for protection but have become a platform for conversation. As they continuously pervade everyday life, they simultaneously reveal aspects of our culture as much as they conceal faces.

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