The Journey Of Masks From A Necessity To A Fashion Statement

Published on
June 1, 2021

Photo by Vera Davidova on Unsplash

Nobody could have comprehended or predicted the events of the year 2020. We are adjusting to the new rules and norms introduced by the need to protect ourselves from this deadly virus. The novel concept of social distancing has been introduced. All countries across the globe are enforcing some or the other form of lockdown, India is one of those nations. There was a shift from taking public transport to work and sitting with your peers for study sessions to working and studying at home through online platforms. 


These shifts have also introduced changes in our trends and some of these changes may be permanent. PPE or Personal Protective Equipment has begun to play a very central role in our lives. The most commonly used version of this protective gear that was introduced as a necessity was a mask. People are encouraged to only leave their homes when absolutely necessary and when they do, they must always have their masks on.  



Masks - Before The Pandemic

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The mask began to get a lot of attention in the pandemic. Everyone who was seen outside their homes could be seen wearing one. In countries like South Korea and Japan, wearing masks has always been the norm, people wearing masks in the streets to protect themselves from air pollution, diseases and air-borne germs was a common sight.  


In India too, in cities like New Delhi where the quality of air is low, people could be seen covering their face with a scarf to protect their respiratory system was a common sight. The bushfires in Australia also led to a decrease in the quality of air and people in many countries had begun wearing a mask of some form or another when outside.  


The mask was always thought of to be clinical equipment, something that was only useful to patients and medical workers. There were many companies that made masks as their primary product of sale before the pandemic too. The reputation of masks being medical equipment underwent a change when the current health crisis first began. 


Based in the United Kingdom, FREKA famously sold gas masks. VOGMASK, with their chief operation in North California, developed an eco-friendly mask that would protect their wearer from particles, dust and germs in the air. TECMASK, a company in Australia, became the top company for selling masks when the bushfire in Australia broke out. 



Masks - A Necessity


The pandemic served as an eye-opener to governments of almost all nations about how ill-equipped we are as nations in face of a health crisis that affects the globe. The nations that were the best in terms of medical equipment such as The United States and Italy failed to take the proper measure when this health scare struck. 


There was a huge shortage between the demand and supply of masks, for the general public as well as for the medical staff that were in the frontlines fighting this pandemic. Many alternate measures were taken by them to keep this pandemic from worsening, which many times resulted in them putting their health on the line. 



Masks - The Transition

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The shortage of masks came to the notice of the fashion industry. They decided to make their contribution to help take control of the crisis. The big fashion industry giants like Fendi, Prada and Chanel began using their production lines for making masks to help the medical workers. Zara began supplying masks to doctors and nurses in Spain, and Louis Vuitton produced masks, hand sanitizers as well as hospital gowns for supporting the health workers of France. 


These contributions can also be thought of as a means of survival in the face of a recession in the economy that was bound to have an impact on these and many other businesses. The sudden announcement of a lockdown for an unknown period of time resulted in bringing many financial activities to a standstill. Many businesses began seeing mask making and supplying in the face of the shortage as the only way to generate revenue and survive in this period of recession. 


After this, many influencers and idols began to be seen wearing masks as an accessory to events. Billie Eilish wore a mask designed by Gucci to the Grammy's Awards in 2020, and Cardi B wore a diamond-encrusted mask to the Men's Fashion Week in Paris. Seeing their idols wearing masks as accessories led to them becoming popular. 


The seriousness of this pandemic played a key role in accelerating the trend of wearing masks. This trend is predicted to continue even when our lives go back to normal in the future. This is mostly due to the fear that the seriousness and deadline of this virus have made prevalent. 



Masks - A Fashion Statement

Photo by courtney coles on Unsplash


To make masks less mundane, many have begun shifting their focus on making them visually appealing. They have begun to be designed as an accessory with the right combination of fabrics that will complement the outfit a person is wearing as well as provide protection. This is also making wearing a mask more engaging. 


Many other businesses have decided to monetize the gap between demand and supply of masks and introduced this category in their products. The youth has begun using masks as a statement to convey "something that hides but also communicates". 


The demand for masks is predicted to increase when educational institutions finally open their campuses. Many designing departments of businesses are taking this time to introduce elements of expression into the designs of masks. 


Many have thought to include key learnings from this pandemic, or rules to be followed as printed messages on the mask. Designs are being thought that will pair well with shirts and denim, shorts and skirts, dresses and hoodies. The idea of wearing something with a strong message is found to be particularly appealing to the student body. 



The Grand Conclusion


The mask has become a trend that will stay with us a long time after the pandemic. There is a shift from physical interactions to using online portals to compensate for the same. Following the norms of social distancing and rules implemented has been tough on everyone. Wearing protective equipment like masks is going to continue to be an important part of the plan to get this situation under control. 


Many people also still feel the need to dress in a way that can express while also not putting those around them in danger. The fashion industry is working for them to have that medium of self-expression through masks. Influencers and idols have also begun wearing accessorized masks in their award function, lives and appearances. This has been the journey of masks starting out as a necessity to becoming a way of self-expression and a fashion statement. 


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