Medical masks move towards fashion trend


Photo labeled for noncommercial reuse by Wikimedia Commons.

Tokyo man wears a courtesy mask while reading his phone.

Fashion has long since been influenced by the global happening that surrounds it. For example, during the second world war, shorter hair and pants came into style for women. This was due to the large number of women joining the industrial workforce while the men who would usually have those jobs were at war. Another modern example is the wearing of “Courtesy” masks in east Asian nations like China, Japan, and South Korea.

This trend of wearing “Courtesy” masks, which are usually surgical masks or N95 painter’s masks, came from both a fear of disease and from concerns about pollution. While these concerns never really reached the US, well until recently, even before the COVID-19 outbreak, we saw these masks gain popularity. According to the Vox article, “As air pollution gets worse, a dystopian accessory is born.” During the Camp wildfire in California back in 2018, Vogmask, a Northern California company that sells Courtesy masks, saw a 10-time increase in orders. It was not uncommon to see people wearing these masks in the streets during this fire.

With the advent of COVID-19, which has flipped the way we live on its head, it’s very likely we will see the Courtesy mask become widespread across not just the US but the whole world. There was already a shortage of medical masks in this country and as this pandemic spreads it is likely we will see companies like Vogmask become more prevalent. Though this has led to an interesting race in the fashion world, to create courtesy masks for the fashion-forward world.

One of the first brands to hop on the courtesy mask bandwagon was Off-White, a streetwear brand, who sold a line of courtesy masks before the outbreak even began. According to an article from Esquire magazine, these masks were proven to not be effective as a Courtesy mask and were simply supposed to be for esthetic purposes.

Though while the advent of these masks may occur, it is important to know that these masks do not prevent you from getting sick, it prevents you from infecting others.