And we're very conflicted.

By Samantha Sutton
Apr 07, 2020 @ 3:30 pm
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We’ve gone through a wide range of emotions over the past few weeks, but, perhaps more than anything, we’ve felt conflicted. We want to support small businesses by continuing to shop, but we don’t want to risk the health of those working behind-the-scenes and delivering packages. We’d like to make the most of our time at home, binging shows and trying out fashion tricks, but we don’t want to forget about how serious this pandemic actually is.

Now, there’s another thing that’s been leaving us torn: fashion face masks, which are being heavily promoted by brands after the Centers For Disease Control recommended that all individuals wear face masks or cloth coverings in public. Alice + Olivia plans to donate one mask to a community in need for every one of theirs that’s sold, while Collina Strada has made plans to include a mask with every purchase on its site. StockX also continues to sell streetwear mask options, so if you’re looking for something from Off-White or Supreme and don't mind a hefty price tag, you can find one there.

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In some ways, it’s a good thing. We need to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and not everyone owns the materials (or has the seamstress skills) to make their own. Many brands promise that proceeds will be donated to charities, or go toward making more masks for those working on the front lines. And, when it comes to smaller companies, selling masks might be a way stay afloat, and pay workers who would otherwise be laid-off or furloughed. 

We also don’t want to bash those who enjoy looking cute while self-quarantining and social distancing. We've been playing around with our makeup, too; getting dressed in our matching sweats sets, and throwing on jewelry — we’re finding joy and some normalcy in the little things, which in turn benefits our mental health. Plus, as GQ pointed out, streetwear masks were already a thing (remember when Billie Eilish wore a sheer one to the 2020 Grammys?), and buying a designer option might actually be easier than trying to find one on Amazon.

Still, there's a bit of an icky feeling associated with turning this moment into a time to look trendy. It's tough to think that, while people are being separated from loved ones, struggling to make ends meet, or fighting for their lives, brands are bedazzling face masks, maybe because jeans aren’t selling right now. Is public health really the priority, or is this just another opportunity to cash in? It’s worth noting that many of these masks aren’t medical grade, so they can’t be used by healthcare professionals, just the average person who needs to go to the grocery store — and that is an actual need that many people have, and are willing to spend some money to fill.

We've decided that, in this case, it might not be as simple as right or wrong. As with many of the changes we've taken on during this era of coronavirus, people will have to do what makes the most sense for them. We should all be focused on keeping ourselves and our communities safe; and the less time we spend in judgment of the way others achieve that, probably, the better. Anyone looking for a clearcut right and wrong on this one may just have to stay conflicted. If you were definitely looking for a mask to protect yourself (with cool patterns and designs), well, now you know where to find them.

The coronavirus pandemic is unfolding in real time, and guidelines change by the minute. We promise to give you the latest information at time of publishing, but please refer to the CDC and WHO for updates.