Mask– by now, we’re all too familiar with this piece of apparently life-saving accessory at this point. That’s our new normal. In fact, let’s try to think about the pre-pandemic times. Is it just me, or is thinking about how there was a time in our lives when we all just lived, pretending as if there were zero germs out there, building up a knot of uneasiness in the stomach?
This is what it has come to– a life without masks and covid cautionary measures in every step we take to feel like a distant dream– an unrealistic reality of the past. Wearing masks by the general population was never the trend, not at least before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Other than medical professionals or specialised personnel working with toxic gases, very few people could have imagined that wearing masks– a rather unpleasant experience to bear, that too on a regular basis– would become an inescapable necessity to combat one of the deadliest viruses currently out there.
However, trust humans to retaliate in due time as soon as something threatens to disturb their comfort cocoon! After a long period of lockdown in most countries, people are finally being allowed to go out and socialise, but on the condition that they wear masks at all times. Over time, this condition, adopting a pinch of fashion– expressed in multitudes of colours and uniqueness of design– started becoming noticeable instead of the rather depressingly bland medical masks. After all, if wearing masks was the mandate, the least one could do was try and make it fashion. What started as a measure of safety had now turned into a statement of style.
As surgical masks needed to be reserved for medical applications, cloth masks started to dominate the mask scene. And cloth, of course, is much more versatile and accessible to work with. Voila! The idea of customising cloth masks soon became popular– whether as an experimental DIY project or as full-on commercial-scale production to satiate the ever-increasing demand for fancy, festive, fashionable masks.
So what are these “designer masks” like? Usually, different colours of silk, satin and intricately embroidered masks complementary to the overall outfit seem to be popular among women while black, dark blue, grey, brown, and other solid colours are commonly seen on men. Masks with simple prints and patterns are also highly sought after by people who want to choose something unisex.
For attending high-end parties though, masks which are a bit more on the glamorous side, with sequins, pearls and jewellery gems are more in-demand. Even brides, (who cannot be excused from the mask mandate just for their special day), seem to have embraced the mask mandate, by choosing to wear specially made glam “bridal masks” that complement their wedding outfit.
Wondering what more can be done with masks? Well, favourite band, celebrity, anime character– you name it– a mask has a place for anything and everything that is physically printable on it. In fact, if wearing masks for so long makes you miss your maskless face, you can even print your own face on a mask and wear it which makes it look like you’re not wearing any mask at all (which is pretty creative, but in my experience, looks absolutely horrifying)!
And just like that, knowingly or unknowingly, we have all been drawn into the world of masks that act as more than just protective gear. Masks have become one of the fashion tools that now cater to our individuality. However, amid the endless possibilities of what a mask can be, the question remains– are they actually doing what they were supposed to and made to be doing? How safe are they compared to the recommended surgical masks– and, if they are not safe–is the world ready to give up on these masks that have become distinctive markers of our fashion statements?