Until a few months ago, face masks were worn solely by doctors or the occasional celebrity like Bad Bunny and Billie Eilish, who wore them as a style statement on the red carpet.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, however, wearing face masks in public has become a common sight. From the disposable light blue masks to the hardcore N95-style ones, many people have become accustomed to seeing only their neighbors’ eyes above a facial barrier.
Although the masks are clearly for protection from the virus, they quickly became available in countless colors, patterns and styles once the demand for them grew.
Face masks can now be found in grocery and department stores, and custom mask merchandising is in full swing on sites like Etsy.
Billi Doyle, owner of Honey Bee Swim in Dallas, began selling masks on an Etsy shop because she didn’t have much of a choice.
“We had to start making masks because nobody's buying any bathing suits really,” Doyle said. “So me and my seamstress, we've been making masks since March, and we kind of just put the bathing suits on hold.”
Honey Bee Swim is her full-time job, but during this time swimsuit sales are at a tenth of the normal sales, she said. Despite this, she still had to find a way to pay the seamstresses that relied on her.
They began using their swimsuit material to make masks, Doyle said, and sold them online.
Although she’d rather make swimsuits, Doyle said she’s glad they found a temporary solution in designing and making masks. They were able to donate 1200 masks to local hospitals.
Contrasting Doyle’s brand-new Etsy, Martha Holm, an Arlington-based Etsy shop owner, has been selling on the site since 2009.
Holm sells vintage toys and a variety of jewelry, but with the recent pandemic she began offering masks featuring designs from colorful stripes to dog print.
She said she’s been sewing for many years, and fashion is a passion of hers, so it made sense to combine the two when the opportunity arose.
“I just love it. I like to be creative,” Holm said. “I’m a very creative person, I like to work with my hands.”
There’s plenty of in-person locations to buy a mask if you need one fast, as well as online options if you want something more personalized. But if you want the most custom mask experience of all, you can always make your own (or get your mom to do it).
Education sophomore Anna Nguyen said her mother made her a black-and-white floral mask, among others for herself and her family.
What makes her mother’s masks so unique is where she gets her materials, Nguyen said. She collects scarves and decided to put some of them to use.
“She takes the scarves and makes masks out of those,” Nguyen said.
From solid colors to floral or geometric prints, Nguyen’s mother makes her own masks because she’s picky and finds store-bought masks hard to breathe in, Nguyen said.
Nguyen now has a mask that’s completely one of a kind.
Personalizing or buying a mask that best suits your personality is a great idea, she said, because it can make wearing the extra item seem like less of a chore.
“Having, like, a personalized mask, it kind of lessens the fact that like, ‘Oh, I have to wear this,’” Nguyen said. “It can also be like, ‘Oh, it's an accessory, like, I don't mind wearing it.’”
Another student whose mother makes masks is marketing junior Xavien Johns. Unlike Nguyen’s mother, who focuses on aesthetics, Johns’ mother makes masks for a specific cause.
The masks are custom made with a printing press design, Johns said, and started as whatever the customer requested. However, following the killing of George Floyd, Johns asked his mother to make him a mask reading “Black Lives Matter,” with the image of a fist.
“I didn't even expect people to, like, hit me up for the different Black Lives Matter masks,” Johns said. “I was just like, ‘Hey, like, this was the one that I asked her for,’ and then it was like, ‘Hey, can I get one?’”
The masks caught on through his social media, Johns said, and his friends and peers kept asking for more. Since then, the Black Lives Matter mask line has expanded, and his mom now offers other designs for similarly-messaged masks.
Whether you want your mask to speak out against racism or simply match your outfit, this new addition to people’s everyday look is an opportunity to make a statement.
“You don't have to walk around screaming. Like, you don't have to go to a protest or anything,” Johns said. “Like, while you're shopping at the store, it's a statement, and people know what you believe. It’s like wearing a T-shirt.”