More than a month after the CDC reversed course with its guidelines, the initial period of confusion with regards to face masks is well behind us. You absolutely should cover your face in public — not just to protect yourself, but to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect others.
We've now been dealing with the pandemic for so long that there are numerous terms for the way it's worn on us. COVID fatigue, quarantine fatigue, isolation fatigue: whatever you want to call it, it's no excuse for letting your guard down. The disease is nowhere near gone, and we have to continue buying into the measures that'll eventually help eradicate it. But that doesn't mean you can't have some fun with it.
With how long the pandemic has continued to affect our daily lives, it's given the market time to become flush with face masks. Clinical-looking masks are no longer the only option, and numerous brands have stepped up to help while maintaining their own aesthetics. That makes the face mask a legitimate fashion accessory — not a necessary development by any means but one that's welcomed nonetheless. If we're gonna strap these things on for the greater good, at least it's easier to convince ourselves that we like the way they look.
You deserve that small joy, which is why we've gathered some of the best offerings on the market.
Espionage Los Angeles ($50)
This LA boutique has started fashioning masks out of authentic dust bags from some of your favorite luxury houses. And if you have a dust bag to provide, they'll turn it into a mask for your for just $20. Don't think of them as bootleg; consider them upcycled.
Union Los Angeles ($25)
If securing a mask to your ears is uncomfortable, Union has an option that goes over your head instead. It's already sold out once, because that's what happens when one of the most venerated streetwear boutiques in the country gets into the game.
Rowing Blazers ($25)
Using leftover fabrics from its suiting, rugbies, and other garments, Rowing Blazers has also seen the hype effect come for its weekly drop of masks. They sell out quickly but have been restocking weekly on Thursday mornings. And for each sold, another mask is donated to the NYC Food Bank.
St. John ($50)
The masks from this nearly 60-year-old knitwear brand are pricy, but they also enable St. John to donate three masks to those in need for each one sold. They're also available in a range of animal patterns in this high-quality knit.
Camp Collection ($55 for six)
If you're looking to buy more in bulk, Camp Collection's six-pack comes in an array of pastels done up beautifully on the borders. Give them out to a few friends or keep 'em all for a solid rotation. As an added feature, the masks feature pouches that can hold filters for extra protection. For each purchase, Camp Collection will donate anther to a frontline worker.
This solid black mask, which is the choice of our own Edgar Alvarez, also features an internal sleeve and can be worn over an N95 medical-grade mask. If you don't share my boss's dedication to only wearing black, Goodfight has three other colors and, for $40, a manga print. Whichever you choose, Goodfight will match your purchase with a mask donation to an institution in need.
Collina Strada ($100)
New York City designer Collina Strada takes the prize for the most fashionable mask of the pandemic so far. This is a bonafide fashion accessory that provides the opportunity to freak it for anyone able and willing. It's pretty feminine, but I myself am tempted to rock one because it's so elegant and gender is a construct. And dropping $100 feels better when you know the brand donates five masks to NYC healthcare workers for each one of these sold.
Reconstruction is central to James Flemons' brand, and his entry into the mask space looks like proper workwear with its thick canvas, metal eyelets, and cotton-coated elastic bands. The bleached "cloud" pattern will also give you the stolen valor of someone who actually works with their hands.
Paisley bandanas are everywhere in fashion right now, with many imitators of Kapital's signature patchwork treatment. Here, we can forgive the imitation because A. Kapital hasn't made a mask and B. if they did, good god would it be expensive. Plus the proceeds are doing good, with Profound donating masks to healthcare workers in the NY/NJ area and giving money to the International Rescue Committee's COVID-19 Fund.
The Oula Company ($20)
The Oula Company is a Seattle-based brand that sources African Wax Fabric from all over the world. Buying their colorful masks has an extra sense of excitement, as you won't know what pattern you'll get until it's delivered. And with brand values that include sustainability and inclusivity, it's not surprising that Oula is matching each purchase by donating masks to communities in need.
Ezra Wine ($39)
While Ralph Lauren has pivoted to manufacturing face masks and gowns to help address the crisis, it hasn't resulted in goods available to the public. Filling that void for Lo Heads is this unofficial "Bear" mask from Ezra Wine, who maintains a shop full of goods inspired by the iconic Polo Bear.
Devo Energy Dome PPE Kit ($50)
This official product from Devo is doubly topical, as it celebrates the 40-year anniversary of when the band began wearing its signature Energy Domes. While undoubtedly goofy, the hats become useful with an added face shield that attaches via velcro. Wearing it out is sure to inspire laughs, making you a force for good while taking your precautions to the next level.