Fashion face masks? Well, yes. Whether face masks work or not, having the world wearing them brings us together symbolically, visually, all against the disease. While for the general public, masks are less a reliable prophylactic against the virus. So far, Austria, Czech Republic, and Israel have instructed citizens to cover their faces while outside their homes.

Against the Virus?

And it works. The threat of Covid-19 has eclipsed the stigma of public mask-wearing. Right now, protective masks are no longer medical devices but key parts of our cultural landscape and fashion. Seeing people wearing face masks while venturing into town to pick up groceries, no longer feels strange. Somehow it feels like the new fashion ‘normal’.

The ‘New Normal’

Granted, face masks are designed as a practical way to stop the spread of Covid-19. But, as these masks become part of one’s look, reflecting one’s personality and outlook on life, fashion must be embedded in them. In my daily walks, I see men jogging by. Some are wearing stretchy masks that look like were made from the same performance materials as their shorts and jackets. There’s a matching sense about those masks.

Then, there are several people wearing fashion face masks in fun and retro patterns. Arguably, cut from the many discarded outfits they found in the recesses of their closets. Also, my Instagram feed is flooded by people wearing fashion face masks of any imaginable kinds.

Fashion Face Masks For Everyone

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There are masks made of everything; from repurposed designer handbags to aprons and raincoats. To younger generations experiencing the Covid-19, everything feels so new. But, to the older ones, wearing face masks to stay safe and look good is nothing new.

According to Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology: “People have used fashion face masks throughout history, to send a symbolic message to those around them.”

In the 1600s, doctors wore face masks with long, pointed beak-like extensions at the nose. Since people believed that the plague was transmitted through foul smells, those fashion masks were stuffed with incense.

“Function wise, they didn’t work,” Steele says. “But, message wise, they were terrifying to look at. These fashion face masks were a clear expression of the horrors that the world was experiencing.”

Fashion Face Masks In History

In the 19th century, when scientists discovered germs on dust particles, wealthy women in Paris wore lace veils. The role of those masks was to protect them from particles circulating on the busy streets.

Then again, fashion face masks were worn during the cholera outbreaks. In 1918, when the Spanish flu pandemic coincided with World War I, many Americans wore masks.

Created to protect soldiers who were about to enter the battlefield, many soldiers wore them as a symbol of their patriotism, not just to curb the spread of the disease. But, some cultures are more open to fashion face masks than others.

Cultural Perspective

For example, there’s always been some cultural resistance to wearing masks in the United States. On the other hand, it has been a common practice for people in Asia to wear masks for decades. Partly because the region has been harder hit by recent pandemics, including SARS in 2003, as well as rising rates of air pollution. In these countries, masks are more than a form of protection, but a way of self-expression.

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Medical anthropologists say they are a way for wearers to express their civic-mindedness and concern for the well-being of their community. Now that the United States is facing the most serious public health crisis of the century, citizens are embracing fashion face masks.

Designer Face Masks

And, as with any garment people put on their bodies, they are getting creative with it. People expressing how seriously they take public health will stick to medical masks. However, many people wear masks covered in teddy bears, Hello Kitty, and other cute images, perhaps as a way to reduce anxiety.

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Others take an opposite approach, wearing masks that feature goth symbols like skeletons to emphasise the fear at the root of the pandemic. And, there’s the luxury segment that wears branded fashion face masks.

Designer masks with Chanel, LVMH, Burberry designer logos, crests and emblems. Jewel-adorned face masks with favourite household names in fashion.

Creativity Thrives

Now, as a word of caution, the big-name fashion designers don’t make face masks, so most of them are homemade by people like you and me. “People are expressing their appreciation for their favourite brands,” says Steele. “It is their way of saying, ‘We’re not going to let this pandemic destroy our love of fashion.'” But there are hundreds of emerging designers embarking on the trend.

The widespread wearing of face masks is not likely to go away anytime soon. Epidemiologists say that we should be prepared for future pandemics. Similarly, fashion experts also say that we should prepare for massive changes in fashion.

Moreover, we are likely to face other catastrophes in the era of climate change, such as fires and pollution that will require protective and yet, fashionable face masks. Soon, face masks might become the most wanted fashion accessories, for a long time to come.

New Form of Cultural Expression

Fashion face masks are the latest ways to express the love of traditional patterns – especially for the Indonesian batik, and the rare West African kente style. When the coronavirus coincides with 4/20, it makes sense that many people are turning to cannabis to reduce their anxiety. But, here we have some cannabis-themed fashionable masks, just in case.

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Rocking That Embroidery Look

Some designers are putting their crafting skills to work in amazing mask-making endeavours. Some of the most gorgeous masks involve embroidery, often of scenes of nature. It is spring, after all.

This article has not been edited by Fibre2Fashion staff and is re-published with permission from