The Future and Fashion of the Mask

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Grace Keeley, Staff Writer

Overtime fashion trends have come and gone: hoop skirts, pill box hats, cat eye glasses, the poodle skirt, stirrup pants, bell bottoms, zubaz pants, legwarmers, and even the corset. They’ve all had their time in the limelight. Each time period has its fads, popular articles of clothing and fashion styles unique to its time but quite possibly, the most prominent and popular article of clothing in recent years has become the mask. Beginning as a personal protectant against the spread of the Covid-19 virus, it cannot be ignored that the mask has further developed into a type of fashion and self expression. For some, a mask stays as mere utility, for others it is a burden, for some a source of fashion, and some even use it as a billboard to display a message. For many it is a mix of all of these. The real question is, what does the future hold for masks?

It is evident that simply the meaning of the word “mask” has evolved in recent years and the general public’s understanding of what exactly a mask can be has broadened extensively since March of 2019. Throughout the short history of my lifetime the meaning of “mask” has drastically changed for me.. As a child, a mask was primarily for playing dress up or for use with a Halloween costume. Think about it this way, if I were to remind a friend in 2015 to “grab their mask” before attending a social gathering, they would most likely wonder if we were attending some sort of Masquerade Ball. But in 2022, this statement is not one bit out of the ordinary. 

When you look on the streets or in most public areas, the number of people wearing masks is the majority. Yet, there is still a sense of diversity. Not every person walks around town with a blue, medical grade disposable mask. There are those wearing a KN95, or your more athletic of people sporting the Athleta or Lululemon mask. There are the fashionistas who display their designer masks. And others can be seen double masking. On a recent airline flight, a woman on my plane was wearing a completely bedazzled, rhinestone mask; which was most certainly eye catching! Many people coordinate their mask with their outfit or even find one that best compliments their eyes or hair. And some use their mask as a form of freedom of speech as they portray strong political or social justice beliefs and sometimes even provide light-hearted humor on their mask. My own mom even bought an “It’s my Birthday” reusable cloth mask complete with a confetti design that we have now been able to use a few times each. Others endorse or support their favorite companies or brands. Conscious or not, the mask has developed into more than just a form of PPE in the past years. It has become a crucial part of our daily, public wardrobes. 

If my understanding of the word “mask” can evolve in my lifetime so quickly and it can become a staple in each person’s purse or pocket it is obvious that masks are far more influential to society than one could have originally assumed. At their core, they provide a sense of security and safety, as they began as a form of protection for self and for others. Yet, as our society and the world approach the anniversary of our second year of mask wearing, they have evolved into something more. Masks have become a canvas for people to portray style preferences, core beliefs, and interests. Whether we acknowledge it or not, a lot can be taken away from the mask someone wears. 

Now I know this may be difficult to imagine, given that cases of Covid-19 are again on the rise, but there will be a day in which masks are not required or needed to be worn in public areas again. Yet, it makes one wonder how long they will stick around. When considering them from a fashion standpoint masks most certainly have made an impact. But will this stay a hot commodity even when government and disease control regulations do not mandate them? Have the public created a subconscious liking to the styling of masks? Are masks the new jeans? After approximately two years of styling an article of clothing, can it ever be fully eliminated from the world of fashion? These are questions that I am asking myself now and I won’t ever fully understand until I live to see the change. But hey, if your shoes match your belt, why shouldn’t your mask match your shirt?