Face masks are now so ingrained into our daily lives that they’ve made the leap from purely protective wear, to fashion accessories that are more like pop-culture icons, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/PA Images

Credit: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/PA Images

Just imagine reading that sentence from your couch even just two years ago.  

It would have been simply incomprehensible that you’d have to wear a face mask simply to go grocery shopping or to catch the bus, let alone that you’d start to worry about style.

Just wild.

Starting as a grassroots fashion movement

With a boom in demand on the back of government mandates requiring all citizens in most of our major metropolitan centres to mask up, innovation was inevitable.

If there’s demand, then savvy entrepreneurs are going to compete with each other to fill it.

As a result, we’ve seen an industry of home sewers, designers and niche producers such as Hoorag, simply spring up out of nothing overnight.

Many self made entrepreneurs have pivoted from producing other fashion items and instead put their skillset toward creating face masks that the traditional fashion world would never even have dreamed of.

Sold on sites like Etsy and simple Shopify ecommerce stores, the concept of face masks becoming fashion accessories is being led by the little guy.

But with success comes competition and some big names in fashion are taking notice.

Enter the fashion giants

That’s right, luxury brands have entered the arena, trying to cash in on the brand recognition they are able to command across the now crowded marketing channels of search and social.

Major fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Chanel have all featured face masks as fashion accessories within their latest lines and runway shows.

Take Burberry’s announcement of their own range of masks.

According to leading fashion search engine Lyst, demand for just their one designer face mask was up over 400%.

Just crazy numbers.

When you consider that this is merely a snapshot of what’s going on across the entire fashion industry, you’ll no doubt notice the seismic shift in consumer sentiment.

A piece of pie that major fashion houses aren’t going to miss out on.

Alongside major fashion houses stepping into the face mask industry, we now even see celebrities joining campaigns, contractually or otherwise, to promote brands.

While this opens up a whole can of worms around whether celebrities such as Lady Gaga wearing face masks designed purely for fashion rather than protection, helps or hinders the public health cause.

As you flick through your Instagram feed full of celebrities and catwalk models rocking face masks designed purely as fashion accessories, it’s quite easy to forget we’re actually in the midst of a devastating public health emergency.

But as always in fashion, perception is everything

Let’s talk about the high-end face masks from Virgil Abloh’s company known as Off-White.

Abloh, the men’s creative director at Louis Vuitton, has been in the headlines recently after Lyst ranked his face mask printed with diagonal intersecting arrows, as the hottest men’s product of the quarter.

While we think of face masks becoming fashion accessories as a relatively new concept on the back of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, it’s really not.

Primarily in the Asian market, Off-White’s face masks have been fashion staples in the East for quite some time.

Not to mention the fact that US rappers like Travis Scott and Future have been wearing Off-White masks since 2016.

It’s all about perception.

Final thoughts on how face masks are becoming fashion accessories

The concept of face masks being worn as items of high fashion continues to push boundaries around the fashion industry as a whole.

While face masks were originally designed as protective gear, their designer counterparts have become much more than just that.

They’re now about making a fashion statement.

Above, we asked you to imagine yourself considering face masks as fashion items even just two years ago.

Now we’ll ask you to this time cast your mind forward into the future.

Where do you see the industry heading going forward?

Is this only the beginning of the face mask’s shift from pandemic protection to a must have fashion accessory, or have things already gone too far?

Only time will tell. 

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