Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 and the subsequent efforts to limit the spread of the disease, face masks have become part of our lives in a way that nobody could have anticipated. Although originally worn with a clear purpose of disease prevention, face masks have quickly become the latest must-have stylish accessory with designers and fashion brands producing a wide selection of trendy styles. But how did this functional item become a hot trend?
The International Culture of Wearing Face Masks
Although wearing a reusable face mask is a recent phenomenon in the United States, in other parts of the world, particularly in East Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, face masks have been commonplace for decades.
There are various reasons why face masks are so popular in East Asia, with the most common being to avoid spreading germs when you are sick. Although the principal motivations are health-focussed, spurred on by previous incidents of SARS and H1N1 virus outbreaks and high pollution levels, other motivations are more aesthetic. For instance, some women wear masks when they don’t want to put on makeup, and celebrities wear them to avoid being spotted by fans and paparazzi.
As wearing face masks became more common, they were embraced as a fashion accessory. While the most common style worn in Asia has always been the surgical, disposable face mask, some brands began to release masks in different colors and patterns. However, it was not until the COVID-19 pandemic made mask-wearing international that such a huge diversity in mask styles emerged.
How Face Masks Became Mandatory
The international outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 led to many changes for people worldwide, including the requirement to wear a face mask in public. Vietnam and Venezuela were among the first to mandate face masks in March 2020, with the Czech Republic and Germany close behind. As many countries began to ease their lockdown orders in the summer of 2020, more countries followed suit to protect citizens.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first time mask-wearing ordinances have been made in the US. During the 1918-19 influenza pandemic, which killed approximately 50 million people worldwide and around 675,000 people in the USA, local governments launched various initiatives to encourage or require people to wear masks to limit the spread of the disease. In the United States, rules around mask-wearing vary depending on the state and the number of COVID-19 infections in that region. However, regardless of the rules, many people have become accustomed to wearing masks in public and feel safer doing so.
In addition to the disposable face masks popular in East Asia, reusable masks in fun colors and patterns became a common sight around the world, and those aimed at specific uses such as sports face masks for working out. These fashion masks have proved much more appealing to many people wearing masks for the first time.
Face Masks Allow Brands to be Socially Responsible
In recent years, the public has begun to demand that big corporations and brands behave in a socially responsible way, for instance, by donating a portion of their profits to charitable organizations or reducing their waste. Many brands stepped up this helpful behavior with initiatives that make consumers feel confident supporting the company.
During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were international shortages of vital personal protective equipment such as scrubs and face masks. Many fashion labels and manufacturers helped by starting to produce and donate these items.
Once their factories were set up to produce face masks and the general public started to wear them, clothing brands began selling masks. Demand for fashionable face masks has been so high that brands could turn what initially began as charity into profits. Reusable masks have also helped to limit the environmental impact of the increased use of disposable face masks, allowing brands that produce reusable masks to boost their reputations as environmentally conscious businesses.
Face Masks and Self-Expression
The introduction of stylish face masks has given people a new outlet to express themselves and their style. Just as clothes, jewelry, and other accessories are used to reflect your identity, so are face masks.
There’s a face mask for everyone, from masks with references to famous TV shows and renditions of revered artworks to sports masks for exercise fanatics and designer labels for the fashionistas. Being able to express yourself in this way has helped increase the popularity of face masks and turn them into the new must-have accessory.
Chic Face Masks Are More Approachable
When face masks first became necessary in the US, many people found them difficult to get used to. Not only can masks feel uncomfortable, but they also restrict your facial expressions, making it more challenging to connect with others.
In countries such as the US, where face coverings are uncommon and somewhat jarring, wearing an attractive, cheerful mask is one way for people to make themselves look approachable, even though their face is covered.
Masks Offer the Latest Tech Features For Better Hygiene
Though disposable surgical masks offer adequate protection from airborne particles and pathogens, they do not offer a custom fit, making them uncomfortable to wear and potentially allowing contaminants to escape or infiltrate the mask.
New mask models now come with tech features to enhance wearer protection and offer better hygiene. The Fiber Knit Sport Air Mask has an ultra lightweight multi-layer design while still accommodating disposable filters that remove particles over 0.3 microns. The nose wire creates a tight seal to eliminate glass fogging, and the 3D support insert stops the mask from laying flat on your face, reducing contact and potential contamination.
Design Innovations Have Made Masks More Wearable
As people began to wear masks more often, issues with standard surgical mask designs became apparent. This led to designers adapting their products to make more comfortable face masks. An example of this is our Sport Fiber Knit Masks that use an adjustable head strap instead of ear straps, which tend to cause pain and discomfort when worn for long periods.
Besides mask manufacturers altering their products for maximum comfort and functionality, innovators have created a wide range of products that make mask-wearing easier and more sanitary, such as mask neck chains (similar to glasses chains) and handy carry cases. These innovations and improvements have helped make masks more convenient, allowing them to become a must-have accessory.
Face Masks Are Now Tailored For Different Activities
As people have started to use face masks in different settings, from work to trips to the mall, mask brands realized that different features were needed depending on where and how they were being worn.
One of the most prominent examples of a situation that requires specific face masks is when working out. Whether due to gym regulations or personal preference, many people decide to work out while wearing a mask, adding to the popularity of sports masks.
Breathing easily while exercising is paramount, and many standard face masks get sucked into the mouth when the wearer breathes heavily, which is very uncomfortable. Fiber Knit’s Sports Mask has 3D filter support that prevents this, keeping the mask off your mouth and allowing you to breathe normally.
Face Masks Have Become Fashionable and Functional
Less than two years ago, the idea that face masks would become commonplace in the United States, let alone they would be considered a new must-have accessory, was ludicrous. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed our habits and priorities. As the threat of new variants remains, many people choose to continue wearing a face mask even if their local government doesn’t require them.
As people have grown used to wearing masks, they have also realized their many benefits, from protecting all kinds of viruses and bacteria to offering a stylish way to express yourself. People started wearing masks to avoid catching COVID-19, but they are now a must-have accessory.