When the University of Maryland announced masks would be required in classes, students had a myriad of reactions. While there were many students who were annoyed at the idea of wearing a mask, there were other students who had the important thought of “how am I going to make my mask match my outfit?”

Masks have become a staple in everyday life with the advent of the pandemic. While masks were initially mandated as a means of protection, they’ve slowly morphed into an essential accessory for some. 

“Sometimes I do notice if someone has an extra pretty one [mask],” said junior journalism and theatre major Erica Javadpour. 

Javadpour felt mixed emotions when it was announced that masks would be enforced in classes. While she was happy to have the extra safety, the mandate made her feel the pandemic was getting worse.

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Javadpour gives some thought to how her mask matches her outfit.

“If I have a Christmas-themed [mask], I don’t like having a whole different outfit and then just throwing that on my face,” she said. 

While Javadpour pays slight attention to her mask choice, sophomore philosophy, politics and economics major Ashley Awoseye makes a conscious effort to wear her mask fashionably. 

“I personally do that because I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist but I like when things match,” she said.

Mask fashion has become a topic of major discussion as the pandemic has progressed. High fashion brands such as Yves Saint Laurant and Lirika Matoshi have all thrown their hats into the mask-making ring. 

Outlets such as Vogue are writing about “the go-to mask,” featuring an image of Justin and Hailey Bieber masked up.  

Yet masks in fashion are not a new phenomenon, and they’re not even a result of COVID-19. Masks from brands such as Bape, Anti-Social Social Club, Off-White and many other big players in the world of streetwear and hypebeast brands have been selling masks for years. 

While it’s not entirely known when masks became a staple in streetwear, it’s theorized to have been born out of the 2002 SARS outbreak in Hong Kong. Streetwear masks were an item of necessary protection, yet over time became an accessory people wore for leisure. 

Sophomore information science major Michelle Drabovsky creates lifestyle and fashion content on Instagram and TikTok, and sees lots of opportunities for masks to become the hot new accessory.

“I think it does depend where you’re going, the vibes you want to give off, what kind of outfit you’re wearing. But if you are going somewhere nice, you want to wear a nicer outfit, you could definitely use your mask to elevate it,” she said. 

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Drabovsky isn’t alone in thinking masks are an up-and-coming fashion item.  

“Society’s definitely considered [masks] accessories like necklaces and watches and jewelry,” said Awoseye. 

Javadpour sees this new fashion development as a positive. 

“I think it’s really kind of cute how people make light of something that is kind of inconvenient and there for kind of a sad reason,” she said. “I really like that people do that.”

To all those interested in mask styling tips, Drabovsky offered the following advice: 

  • Go with more neutral colors and cooler fabrics 
  • Look for high-quality material masks such as silk or satin to elevate an outfit 
  • Use a bold patterned mask to elevate a simple outfit 
  • Try making your mask match your eye makeup or earrings 

While it seems unclear whether masks are here to stay, fashion fanatics will continue to prevail. You’ll never know if you’re seeing the next big fashion statement as you walk around the campus and see students masked up.