Fashion Masks – Bad Taste or Just a Bit of Fun?

We’re on week seven of lockdown here in Wales, and I’m ready to complain (once again) about fast fashion! Let’s be real, it wouldn’t be me if that wasn’t the case. Since the pandemic kicked off, fast fashion brands have had a surge in ‘fashion masks’ on their websites.

A fashion mask is a face covering, similar in appearance to medical face masks. They typically don’t have a breathing filter pocket, and are made of thin, flimsy material.

So what’s the big deal?

It’s in bad taste

Fashion masks with various printed colourful slogans completely undermine the fact we’re in a pandemic. This is a serious situation and there are thousands of deaths, but sure, why not sell a quirky fashion mask with ‘PLT’ plastered across the front?

PLT fashion masks

This isn’t the first or the last time a fast fashion brands have done something in bad taste. Just look at the blood stained Kent State sweatshirt from Urban Outfitters, or their tapestry that looked suspiciously similar to that of gay Nazi prisoners. While fashion masks aren’t as blatant, they’re still not a great move.

At the end of the day, a global pandemic doesn’t call for a fashion statement.

They don’t protect you from the virus

In the grand scheme of things, a flimsy PLT or Boohoo face mask will do nothing to protect you from the virus. It’s been suggested that they may even be doing more harm than good, by acting as a surface to collect germs.

It has been recommended by some governments that they’re worn in enclosed spaces, though their purpose is to protect other people if you are unwell, as opposed to protecting you from germs.

Boohoo fashion masks

“_% of proceeds go to the NHS”

It’s been mentioned countless times, but charity items from fast fashion brands are not about doing a good deed. Publicity is the real aim, regardless of what portion goes to charity. They’re a gimmick.

If the true goal was to raise money for charity and ‘do the right thing’ then why wouldn’t they simply make a donation in the company’s name? The fact they need to flog cheap tat to the general public says it all.

It’s wasteful

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a waste. Of materials, resources, and I can only assume that the lives of factory workers are at risk. What worries me also is the lack of transparency about the materials used to produce these masks.

On both the PLT and Boohoo websites, I couldn’t find a single bit of information about the materials. I can only assume it’s a form of polyester or cotton blend, given the appearance of the product.

Not only are the materials wasteful, but it’s designed to be a throwaway garment. It’s intention isn’t to protect or provide safety. They’re designed for a quick snap for your Instagram feed, a mid-pandemic glamour shot. On the PLT website alone there’s over 50 different mask designs. I’m not surprised by all of this, but it’s frustrating.

PLT screenshot

Fashion Mask Alternatives

If you’re in a position where you require a mask, due to government or workplace recommendations, there’s a whole host of practical alternatives available.

It’s been said that the general public do not need face masks. They’re seen to provide a false sense of security, and the World Health Organisation has identified hand washing and proper social distancing measures as being more effective.

It’s also been advised that the public don’t buy surgical or protective masks for personal use as they’re already in low supply globally and key workers should be prioritised for PPE (personal protective equipment).

“Let people enjoy things”

It’s possible that I’m alone in being sceptical of the fashion mask trend. Maybe people are simply trying to bring a bit of joy into their lives by blinging out their pandemic accessories. I don’t know.

I understand the desire to make your mask a little cooler by putting a funky design on it, but I’m still conflicted about the whole thing. We’re all desperately trying to find positives at the moment, and we need to come together as opposed to constantly finger pointing and allocating blame.

I don’t think anyone is to blame for wanting to buy a fashion mask. Sometimes it comes from a place of simply not knowing better and assuming it can protect them from the virus. It could also provide a false sense of security and help with reducing anxiety levels. Or maybe they just want it for the aesthetic.

At the end of the day, it’s not my business. But do I think fast fashion brands should be using them as a way of trying to cash in on the pandemic? No. 

What do you think of fashion masks? Are they doing more harm than good? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for tips & tricks on living sustainably.

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