Are Face Masks Pointlessly Gendered?

Surgical face masks, most an unsightly shade of blue, have become a daily necessity — and also a popular meme, doubling as a swimming pool for tiny human figurines, a disquieting flag for the pandemic, and a cringe-worthy mankini on comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

But when designers and fashion brands started creating face masks, they began mirroring an industry still firmly devoted to men’s and women’s departments.

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The university has been collecting samples of face masks designed during the coronavirus pandemic for its men’s wear archive and is planning an exhibition on the subject next year.

New York state’s “Mask Up” campaign, which involves more than two dozen designers, offers another sample group, with Prabal Gurung, Mara Hoffman, Tanya Taylor and Alice + Olivia among those offering floral or botanical prints.

“In general, I found that designers were creating masks for their customers as well as staying true to their brand identity,” said consultant Julie Gilhart, chief development officer for Tomorrow London Ltd., who spearheaded the project for Gov. Andrew Cuomo in partnership with his daughter Mariah Kennedy Cuomo and The RealReal. “In some cases, like Johnathan Cohen, it was very feminine, much like his brand. In the case of Public School’s mask, they wanted to design something that represented the power of the people coming together to fight for a common cause.”

In Gilhart’s view, “masks have their own identity, but my advice would be to consider them more genderless: The defining part is what one’s personal taste is attracted to.”

See Also:

TIPPING POINT: Fashion Brands, Schools and Stores Navigate Shifting Gender Norms

Decoding Genderless Fashion, the Future of the Industry

Diversity in Modeling Should Include All Gender Identities

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