How face masks went from necessity to personal style item overnight

On a Saturday night in April, Trevor George saw a photo taken in the early days of the pandemic that showed a scene he thought absolutely could not pass. “Every single person was wearing a blue three-layer disposable mask,” says George. The image amazed him – and gave him an idea. “My wife and I looked at each other and we said, ‘There’s no way this is going to happen in America. We knew that [Americans] had to wear masks, but we didn’t think they’d all wear exactly the same because that’s who we are. We are very individualistic. We like to show our personality.” So he called a manufacturer that evening who said they could make masks; later that week, George launched MaskClub with a large inventory.

People bought Batman masks and Hello Kitty masks and tie-dye masks and masks made in collaboration with furniture textile manufacturer Scalamandré. But most of all, they bought masks with the American flag on them. They bought so many that George’s producer ran three eight-hour shifts, back-to-back-to-back, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even that wasn’t enough – people bought so many that MaskClub stopped taking orders to keep up with demand.

In just a few months, the face mask has undergone decades of change—the same kind of transformation that saw the T-shirt go from part of the Navy uniform to widespread civilian adoption—in just a few months. At first, experts told us we didn’t need them. Then the CDC recommended everyone wear one. And now they have reached a third, more seductive stage: our masks represent our identities, political, stylistically or otherwise. The face mask’s transformation from medical essential to style accessory is, like George’s, a deeply American story: one about our self-perceived rugged individualism and about the entrepreneurs who exist to turn any situation, no matter how negative, into a positive one. .

A Tie Dye Blue face mask from MaskClubCourtesy of MaskClub

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