Fashionable Face Masks for the Covid-Conscious

Look Your Best in the Accessory No-one Wants to Wear


Maurice Alexander | Tue, 16 Jun 2020


Image courtesy of OrnaW on Pixabay

‘‘From 15 June, face coverings will be required while using public transport in England.’’ It was the statement none of us wanted to hear. I’m aware that Scotland is not England, but as the dominant nation in our country, it will only be a matter of time until our own government follows suit with similar legislation. Not to mention that a great number of shops and public institutions will probably request, or demand, that all entrants have their face covered once normality has resumed. You don’t want to be turned away from the Sir Duncan Rice Library next semester for not wearing a mask, but you also don’t want to be dressed badly with a generic all-black or all-white one that totally dominates your look. I’ve taken it upon myself to scour the fashion markets to find the most aesthetic and accessible versions of this new clothing staple.

Mask Basics

The logic behind the masks is that you create a physical shield between yourself and the airborne viral particles. Unfortunately, you’ll find that almost all of the masks for sale are prefaced with ‘Not Medical Grade’ or ‘Not for Use as Personal Protective Equipment’, revealing that the mask does nothing to prevent you being infected. Don’t worry about this, as we’ve long passed the peak of both infections and daily deaths. Wearing a mask now, along with the institutional push behind it, is for your own and others’ piece of mind. Even though it’s rather pointless, the masks act as a psychological calmer and the cold logic of newly drafted health and safety guidelines are calling the shots now, so its best we all make the best of a bad situation.

Fabric is important, as the mask is going to be on your face potentially for a few hours and you don’t want an abrasive material rubbing against your skin. Ensure that you get a cotton mask as they’ll be both soft and machine washable. ‘Medical grade’ personal protective equipment (PPE) is routinely washed in great, wide-barrel washing and drying machines at incredibly high temperatures to allow thorough sterilisation fit for hospital environments. Considering what I said about the inability for masks for the common public to prevent infection, you shouldn’t attempt this sterilisation process, probably don’t have the equipment, nor is it necessary. Again, mask-wearing in public is just politeness and following the rules of certain places.

The surgical mask is the design we’re all so familiar with; a cut of fabric with two elastic loops that go behind your ears. Despite the surprised, no-one expected them to become the trend of 2020, surgical facemasks are readily available from most clothing outlets in a kaleidoscope of colours, patterns, styles and designs. I do recommend buying multiple masks as they’re now like any other clothing item and thus subject to the same judgement we apply to everything else. You wouldn’t wear a pair of shoes with an uncomplimentary colour going against the rest of your outfit. This way of thinking now applies to maskwear.

Masks for the Everyday

For everyday facemasks to pair with all the outfits in your wardrobe, JustHype is the place to go. They are the brand leading the facemask market. Their newest category, ‘Masks’ is, has one of the largest and most stylistic mask collection available. Located in the Midlands, JustHype stock masks of all designs from luminous shades, faux-Versace glamour styles, cameos, florals- everything for all occasions. Each mask is around £12, with discounted prices applied to specific designs, making them an attractive choice for getting a number of a masks without emptying your bank account. I think a mask in a solid dark colour like black, charcoal and navy are quite severe and tends to dominate someone’s appearance. To maximise civility, I recommend masks with a pattern or in light/bright colours.  This advice is more applicable than you think, as you could wear a very neutral tone, everyday outfit of ecru, navy or khaki green and have an electric yellow, purple, blue, green or purple face mask of that colour only. If you’re a fan of streetwear and the flashy trainers that clothing style is iconic for, then pair the mask colour with the trainer colour.

Masks for the Office Environment

If you find yourself having to attend an interview for a graduate position or internship, and they specify that facemasks should be worn, then I recommend that you get a mask from Charles Tyrwhitt. Charles Tyrwhitt is a luxury clothing brand specialising in professional menswear and like so many retailers, they have new addition to their website, ‘Face Masks’. Here, you will find trim face masks made using the same fabric used for their quality shirt in white, sky blue and a finely chequered pattern of the two colours. Despite their reputation top quality with a high price, their masks go for lower than the market average at £7. If you’re female, don’t be put off by Charles Tyrwhitt collections being for men, as their facemasks are unisex and perfectly suitable for the professional woman as well as the working man.

Masks for the Fanciful and Elaborate

Etsy is a surprising heavyweight when it comes to the mask marketplace. Etsy is an online retailer similar to Ebay, with Etsy only stocking hand-made or vintage items. Of course, don’t get a World War 1 trench mask from the antique section, but the individual sellers of Etsy have embraced this new and necessary trend, creating an untold number of masks in whatever fabric or pattern you could desire. More common to Etsy is a mask with multiple lines of fabric attached to the face-covering portion of masks and you’ll have the choice between an ‘Elastic’ or ‘Tie’ designs when choosing product specifications. Elastic is the standard surgical mask design and Tie references to the additional lines of fabric that you tie together around your head, kind like a woman tying a ribbon in her hair. This adds added security as a well as a touch of glamour to the mask. Dramatic and gorgeous, these ‘tie’ masks are naturally being more suited to women. Prices vary from shop to shop but in general, they are priced similarly to the other masks on the market.

Neck Gaiters / Face Scarves

You’ll be thankful to know that there is another item providing the same function as surgical masks but possess much greater longevity, as the surgical mask trend will die as soon as the government relaxes the rules on their wear. Neck Gaiters, or cylindrical scarves, are a tube of fabric that you pull over your head, position around your neck and then pull the upper section of the gaiter over your face when covering is desired. This type is much more masculine in its image, making you appear as though you are mere moments from commit grievous acts of public violence. Women should avoid wearing them. Typically, they come in a single colour and are readily available from suppliers specialising in clothing for the outdoors like Jack Wolfskin, but other mens clothing retailers are likely to also stock these scarves. Price varies but they are usually more expensive than surgical masks, but don’t hesitate to spend more, as you can use it every year to shield yourself for the biting chill of the Winter long after the fashion of surgical masks is dead and gone. Do not be tempted to wear a full ski mask, commonly known as balaclava. Even though a half-ski mask gives a flare that is excitingly dangerous, wearing a mask in which only your mouth and eyes are visible is deeply intimidating and inappropriate for public wear.

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