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Make the most of wearing a mask

Just because you have to wear one doesn’t mean you can’t look fabulous

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Rexi Co’s mask with fringes.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

After COVID-19 started dominating the headlines, one of the changes that we started making in our lives (well, most of us, anyway) was to wear a mask.

As you probably remember, initially masks were difficult — sometimes impossible — to find. Disposable masks were reserved for medical and emergency personnel (and in some places, shortages were so problematic that people were sewing masks to send to hospital workers). The rest of us improvised the best we could.

However, human ingenuity (and capitalism) will out. Now there are lots and lots of companies out there vying for your masking dollars. There are craftspeople selling their designs on individual sites, artists putting out weird and wonderful constructions, and larger companies providing funny, snide, or positively frightening masks. And why not? As long as you’re committed to wearing a piece of cloth across your face when you’re in a public space, why not use it to enhance your outfit, shout out a message, or just have fun? Be bold! Make a fashion statement!

Here are a few of the weird, wonderful, or just plain nice masks that I’ve come across. They’ve been recommended by colleagues from The Verge, pointed out by friends, or just jumped out at me from news items. You probably can find a lot more out there.

Practical and pretty

If you’re just looking for a useful but attractive mask for daily use, Baggu offers its masks in sets of threes, in either plain colors or bright patterns. You can order one of two types of fasteners: adjustable ear loops or ties that loop behind the head and then knot at the base of the neck (which can be more comfortable if ear loops interfere with your glasses or hearing aids).

Planning to dress up for the holidays — for, say, an intimate outdoor dinner with your favorite person? Well, nothing says sophistication like Vida’s holiday masks, which have artistically patterned gold or silver foil laid against a black background. If Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were making movies today, these are the masks they’d be dancing in.

Holiday mask by Vida.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Activists can put their values front and center with Suay’s Face the Future / Fear the Kids masks. According to the company website, when you buy one of these great-looking masks, you’re also donating a mask to Indigenous youth and contributing to Seeding Sovereignty, an Indigenous-led collective. Suay also offers a variety of other masks and accepts contributions to purchase farm boxes for garment worker families.

Masks protect you, but they also hide half your face. This can be a real problem for people, such as deaf individuals who rely on lip-reading and / or facial expressions, seniors who have less hearing than they used to, or babies who learn by watching their parents’ faces. While there are some masks out there that have plastic cut-outs for your mouth, a company called ClearMask sells disposable masks in packs of 24 that offer full-face visibility. They are available both in non-medical and medical (FDA-cleared) versions.

Just for fun

If you feel your friends aren’t freaked out enough as it is, you can really make ’em jump with Aggressive Fashion’s facehugger neck gaiter that can be pulled up and used as a mask — and lets you look like John Hurt on a really bad day. On the other hand, if cute is more your style, what can be cuter than a Baby Yoda mask? (Yeah, I know, he’s got a name now, but he’ll always be Baby Yoda to me.)

Aggressive Fashion’s facehugger neck gaiter.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

One Verge staffer, who says she’s had it with people who can’t be bothered to wear their masks properly, has ordered a Christmas-themed item that says, in no uncertain terms, “The mask goes over your nose.” I’d strongly suggest that if you see this coming your way, either adjust your mask or cross the street.

Do you like the music of Orville Peck — or just have a hankering for fringes? Why not treat yourself to Rexi Co’s mask with fringes that will sway as you sing (although your voice will be a little more muffled than Peck’s). There are actually a variety of fringed masks out there, so shop carefully — some of the ones being offered don’t have a full mask behind the fringes, so won’t do you a lot of practical good.

Lumen Couture’s LED mask
Lumen Couture’s LED mask.
Photo by Chelsea Klukas / Lumen Couture

(There are, incidentally, seemingly hundreds of different masks available from a wide range of designers on Etsy, so if differently-styled masks have become your thing, that’s one place to go.)

The aptly-named Lumen Couture company offers a mask that says whatever you want it to — in LEDs. You can use an Android / iOS app to create your own message or to draw an animation that bounces along the front of your mask. (You remove the electronics to wash the mask.) And just think: once the pandemic is over, this will still look great in a dark bar or club.

Gabriel Dishaw’s White Ranger mask.
Photo: Gabriel Dishaw

If you’re a true comic book nerd, or just admire upcycle art, you may want to consider something from the collection of artist Gabriel Dishaw. His series of masks created with, among other things, the remains of Louis Vuitton luggage, are extraordinarily creative (and have been purchased by, among others, singer / songwriter T-Pain). You need to be aware, though, of two things: first, these one-of-a-kind masks are going fast, and second, they tend to cost somewhere in the $2,000 range.

Blanc’s full-face mask
Blanc’s full-face mask.
Photo: Blanc

For something truly science-fictiony, there is the Blanc full-face mask currently in Kickstarter (but already well past its pledge mark and due to ship in mid-March). This robotic-looking mask covers your entire face, with a strip of clear material to see through (something like the original Cylons), and filters air using two HEPA filters. Once it ships, the panels of the mask can be swapped to provide a variety of individualized designs; according to the manufacturers, it not only offers protection, but “allows you to regain control of your visual identity, emotions, and expression.” Not to mention scare the heck out of any small children in the area.