Michelangelo with Mona Lisa Mask
Photo credit: Leslie Agan / WhoWhatWhy

Welcome to WhoWhatWhy’s weekly COVID-19 roundup. There’s a lot of virus coverage out there, so this feature will give you a dose of the latest news.

When COVID-19 first hit the US just over a year ago, masks were a new and unplanned for necessity. We grabbed what we could — surgical masks, bandanas, buffs, even a sanitary napkin — to get us through what we all assumed would be a short-lived inconvenience.

But as we are all too aware, COVID-19 has persisted, to the extent that we have seen over two million deaths worldwide. Vaccines are rolling out, and we’re starting to see some relief on the horizon — but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks aren’t going anywhere. It will likely remain this way until we get a better handle on how this virus behaves. (Though with the threat of future pandemics, the mask may be a permanent addition to our fashion culture.)

Over the past year, as masks became another accessory like shoes, purses, and hats, they too evolved. Now you see all kinds of styles and designs, which, like any fashion, say something about the personality, wit, or attractiveness of the wearer. And because masks are still relatively new, it might be tricky to interpret what the wearer is saying. So here we present a handy guide to masks… and the people who love them.

The One-Percenter

Rest assured that wherever there’s a new market, someone will step in to sell an overpriced abomination as a stunt for the kind of people whose idea of “healthy living” includes buying the blood of young people. For them, we recommend something like a one-of-a-kind, white gold, diamond-encrusted mask by Yvel for a cool $1.5 million. I wanted to order one — research, you know — but my editor wouldn’t approve it as a research expense. 

The “Gee… Thanks”

We all have thoughtful friends. For some, the stress of isolation convinced them that they were crafty pioneer folk who could and should create masks for loved ones. One friend mailed me homemade ones: flannel and tied with ribbon (too hot to breathe in, too tricky to tie and untie). Another crafter made me two adorable blue and black plaid cotton masks, but the ear straps were too small; they pulled my ears forward in a most uncomfortable way and made them look like jug handles. 

Black Mask

Photo credit: Leslie Agan / WhoWhatWhy

The Little Black (Face) Dress

A basic black (or navy) mask looks good on everybody. It’s slimming and makes you look like you’ve got cheekbones for days. A sexy yet sophisticated look for that Saturday night Thai food delivery.

The Walking MOMA

Feeling artsy? Check out museum gift shops, and you can rock van Gogh’s stars, Monet’s water lilies, or a Mona Lisa smile.

The Mouth Swoosh™

If you want to be a walking advertisement for Nike, Google, or the Hard Rock Café, you can do that. If you own a business, it’s easy and cheap to get your logo printed on masks (and we’ve all got enough logoed water bottles, thanks). Or maybe you’re passionate about your team: Whether it’s professional or collegiate, football or volleyball, there’s a mask for that.


Partisan Mask

Photo credit: Leslie Agan / WhoWhatWhy

The Partisan

You can even get yourself a “Make America Great Again Mask” mask, ironically enough. “Trigger some liberals!” at (now on megamarkdown). Bernie Bros, you’re covered too; the mask will match your mittens. 

The Mistake

Despite having a dozen masks hanging by my front door, last week I got distracted and somehow left my apartment without one. Luckily, I found an old paper surgical mask in the bottom of my purse, which had to suffice for that trip. But I felt like I’d gone out in a crappy old T-shirt. Don’t let this happen to you. Get creative, up your mask game, and mask up.

Crappin’ Dog

There’s one more mask style, which is really a non-style: “The Discard.” What happened here? Alien abduction? Forceful sneeze? Rapture? Just over it all? A mask without a person is the most 2021 of mysteries. Photo credit: Leslie Agan / WhoWhatWhy

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Leslie Agan / WhoWhatWhy.


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