It looks like we’re going to be wearing cloth face masks for a while, which is all the more reason to find one that you like. The CDC has been recommending that people wear masks when going out in public for weeks. And yesterday Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an order that New Yorkers must wear masks in public places where social distancing six feet is not possible. (Cuomo specified that people would not be jailed for not wearing a mask, but fines could be issued.) Similar orders have been issued in New Jersey and Puerto Rico, but wearing a fabric mask as a civilian is now common sense, provided you can afford and access one. So for the foreseeable future, we’ll be wearing masks to the grocery store, on walks and runs, and maybe even after the crisis abates. Given the prevalence of mask selfies, it’s likely that masks will start to become fashion items, rather than merely functional.
The best face masks for civilians to wear are made of cloth. Leave the surgical masks and N95s for the healthcare professionals and essential workers. Besides, designers have been in the fabric-mask game for a long time. Billie Eilish wore a Gucci face covering (that’s, uh, probably not CDC approved) to the Grammys before the coronavirus was a pandemic in the United States. Fendi, Palm Angels, and Marine Serre have all made masks. Christian Siriano turned his business into a mask-making machine for hospitals. And many, including Collina Strada’s Hillary Taymour, have offered tutorials on how to make one at home.
But people are still looking for masks they don’t have to make themselves. Etsy’s landing page has become all about the mask, and the company disclosed that between April 4 and 6, people searched for masks on the site an average of 9 times per second, totaling more than 2 million searches. Supply on Etsy has also exploded, as the number of mask sellers on the site increased fivefold in the last week of March and the first week of April.
Masks are not a fashion accessory, but they do take up a fair amount of real estate on your face, so it’s not surprising that people are looking for aesthetically pleasing ones. With that in mind, below is a selection of the most stylish masks to buy now. Some sellers are even doing a buy-one-donate-one offering.Coming on a year of never leaving the house without our trusty face masks, the latest government announcements have outlined an end in sight for lockdown life. But just because restrictions are easing it doesn’t mean protective face coverings are null and void – quite the opposite, in fact. As we ease back into our social lives in the coming months, face masks will be more important than ever in keeping infection rates on a downward trajectory and it’s likely they’ll remain a staple long after vaccinations are complete.
By this point in the global pandemic, you should have a shoebox full of face masks to rotate between. Not only has their importance been increasingly drilled into the national consciousness, but brands have increasingly risen to the challenge of making the essential accessory an altogether more stylish prospect. In the market for something more than the throwaway paper standard? Here’s what to know before you buy…
Is wearing a face mask mandatory?
It might feel as though we’re out of the woods, but the necessity of face masks is not in question. With an outlook for increased mixing from 29 March, hospitality and leisure facilities opening their doors from 12 April and the potential for all restrictions to be lifted from 21 June, staying protected and wearing a mask where necessary will be an integral part of facilitating this timeline. In short, with more social contact points being introduced than we’ve been used to thus far in 2021, face masks are more essential than ever.
What should I look for in a face mask?
There are a few things to consider beyond pretty patterns alone. Most important is the fit. Face coverings should cover both the mouth and nose and should fit around the side of the face without having to be held in place. Fit is particularly important for those who wear glasses, as masks can cause your specs to fog up and slip. If you’re specifically looking for something to prevent this, you can refer to our guide to the best masks for glasses wearers.
This being an accessory to facilitate the good health and hygiene of you and those around you, you’ll also need to make sure your mask can withstand a regular spin in the washing machine. Sprucing up of your mask won’t just keep it from spreading bacteria from pockets and surfaces, but may also prevent skin flare-ups around the mouth and chin known as “maskne”. You could also invest in a dedicated mask case such as Pacamask’s to keep it protected from bacteria in bags and pockets.
There’s also the matter of this being an accessory with styling potential, no different to a beanie hat or scarf. While you might consider investing in some simple staples from the likes of Uniqlo and Everlane, elevated fashion takes abound from the likes of Burberry and Balenciaga will look especially impressive as your social life picks up in the coming months. After all, the “it” accessory has contributed to many a celebrity style moment in recent times, with those who wore them best even making it into their own category in our end-of-year most stylish roundup.
Who should be wearing a face mask?
For the everyman, a fabric face mask over any medical-grade PPE is fine for any time spent on public transport or at the supermarket and as he ventures back out into public life at non-essential shops, hospitality and entertainment venues in line with the latest lockdown roadmap. As with the in-between lockdown phases of 2020, it will likely be the case that retail and hospitality staff will still be required to wear masks and you’ll also have to wear a mask during that much-needed first visit back to the barber (don’t worry, the good ones will be able to work around your mask straps).
On the fitness front, masks tend to be required off the gym floor at studios and in gyms, but in most instances it’s not a must while working out (though sports brands such as Under Armour and Adidas do cater to those who’d prefer to wear one). When fitness venues do reopen, just remember to practice good hygiene, wiping down equipment and sanitising your hands regularly.
As well as on public transport including busses, trains and aeroplanes, masks will also remain mandatory when using private travel companies such as Uber and Bolt. Children under the age of eleven, disabled people and people with certain health conditions remain exempt from mandatory mask-wearing in public, so do avoid raising your temper too quickly at those going without.