With the corona pandemic came the mass production and wear of face masks. Surgical face masks are worn by everyone in order to warrant protection of oneself and others. While they have certainly become a symbol of protection by now, they are also entering the world of fashion. As the pandemic is ongoing and there is no certainty regarding its end, people are ditching the mass produced surgical masks for masks in different colors and with diverse patterns. Thereby, turning the face masks into means of expression for one’s individuality.
As Jean Paul Gaultier put it, face masks are “the new statement t-shirts”. Fashion brands are designing and producing facemasks with different prints, and Jean Paul Gaultier with his Haute Couture studio team has re-interpreted the mask as a daily-use masterpiece for the French magazine Gala. This shows how practicality, protection and fashion are finding a way to coexist in the current situation. All of this is testimony to the fact that face masks are becoming part of our daily lives and routines. Therefore, they are inevitably also being adapted into the fashionista’s wardrobe. The most popular masks in Paris for example are black ones, which with its universality fit perfectly into the classic style choices of Parisians. However, while artisans such as Jean Paul Gaultier are making haute couture masks, these are mainly created for artistic purposes and not for sale. Nevertheless, there are couture models available for purchase. The perfect example are the face masks created by French designer Erik Schaix.
The demand for these masks rose up after the French President Emmanuel Macron was seen wearing their navy-blue mask with a small French flag on the trim. This goes to show how even high fashion and artistry are valued and highly necessary to lift the morale of people emotionally exhausted by the pandemic. These masks while not helping directly, have the ability to make people on the streets look and marvel at them as creations of art, which would usually happen with other designer accessories such as bags and shoes. However, masks are perhaps even more powerful because they hide a large part of the face, which is the first thing people on the streets of cities notice when looking at others.
Even if we are unaware of it, we are drawn to look up at people and see their faces because it gives us a sense of normality and ease. With masks covering most of one’s face we lose this, and the diversity created through the wear of different masks somehow makes our faces unique as our face features would when visible. All in all, these masks are therefore testimonies of our uniqueness as when less and less people look almost completely the same due to wearing surgical masks, personalities and differences shine through. This makes them the new statement t-shirt as Jean Paul Gaultier put it, as even if we do not even think of them that way, their look sends a message about us.
By Sara Dozai