From Trendy to Essential: Face Masks in the Pandemic Era

Who remembers when hypebeasts first started rockin’ face masks as just another accessory?

Some people side-eyed them as they walked the streets of SoHo in Lower Manhattan. “What the f*ck are they wearing?” Fast-forward some years later, in the midst of a global pandemic, we now ask ourselves, “what the f*ck are they doing without a mask?” when we spot someone without one.

What a dynamic shift.

Back in April, the Centers for Disease Control advised the use of face masks for all Americans when out in public - in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. As the word quickly spread, a shortage of masks - especially medical masks - was a result of the initial panic.

medical grade mask

While medical-grade masks are have proven to be more effective, local governments started to suggest the use of various facial coverings - such as cloth masks, bandanas, and DIY masks - if medical masks were unavailable.

For medical workers, however, the shortage of medical masks impacted them the most. As frontline workers, it is critical that they are provided proper PPE (personal protective equipment). In response to the lack of masks, clothing brands and manufacturers stepped up to the plate.

At first, they were designing and making masks as a trendy accessory, but now, it’s become an essential piece of protective personal gear in this pandemic.

Made popular in Asian streetwear markets, streetwear fashionistas are no strangers to these face coverings. For brands such as Bape, Grailed, and Off-White, jumping on the wave when it’s become absolutely critical was an easy transition.

While these masks are not medical-grade, a 2013 Cambridge study proves that it could “significantly reduce” the spread of a virus.

From trendy to essential, face masks are here.

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