With some local governments still urging the use of masks in public, face coverings are part of the new normal and probably will continue to be for a while. Even after the pandemic begins to wane, it’s possible to envision a world where facial coverings are used as a long-lasting precautionary measure. One thing is certain though, because masks now play a vital role in our public life, our standards for personal protective equipment have changed.
From technical engineers testing walkie-talkie mask prototypes, to bridal fashion designers expanding their ceremony designs to include face coverings, the mask industry has been propelled into innovation, and rightfully so. There is a growing need for masks that not only function as protective gear in our everyday routines but integrate into our lives seamlessly without compromising personal convenience, safety, or self-expression.
Simple throwaway masks cover the basic requirements, but the basic requirements do not satisfy the new emerging demands of consumers anymore. As noted in The New York Times feature on mask innovation, people want “face coverings with high-tech fabrics that are said to provide superior comfort or protection.”
Along with the need for ingenuity in mask comfort, comes the need for aesthetic creativity. As Vanessa Friedman explored on the question of where masks belong in fashion, it’s possible that masks can “become symbols of not just health or social concern, but of identity.” They can act as an extension of our public selves. Patterns, varying styles, and distinct designs capture and reflect an essence of our unique personality and style in a way that standard masks may not. Masks are first and foremost a medical necessity, but they lend an opportunity for further personal expression, a chance to present ourselves authentically as we wish.
The higher standards placed on personal protective equipment in terms of mask functionality, diversity, and style not only reflects the needs of the world at the moment, but it highlights our innate human resilience and creativity in difficult times. Mask innovation and fashion means taking on a new opportunity for individual self-expression; it means facing an otherwise strange reality and making the best of it with a persevering spirit.