Formal, Mask, COVID-19
Gentlemen know that masks are always appropriate formal wear. Photo credit: John Perivolaris / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement last month that fully vaccinated individuals can forgo masks and social distancing rules, a growing number of Americans are now plagued with the seemingly impossible question: How can I go mask-free without people mistaking me for an anti-masker?

This isn’t to say that post-pandemic you should take on a middle-school era level of self-awareness, riddled with worry about what the casual passerby on the street would think about your appearance. However, considering how mask-wearing has become so politicized — and how that politicization may have contributed to America’s disproportionately high death toll last year — we understand if you don’t want to restart those arguments with that aunt or uncle about your now-bare face.

So we’ve compiled some tips to help you navigate the chasm between Anti-Maskers/Anti-Vaxxers and Double-Vaxxed-And-Anti-Anti-Masker-Vaxxers (who, for convenience sake, we’ll call the Vaxxed Ones). 

1. Embrace the Next Stage of Life for the Mask

Many of us have looped our masks around our wrists when we’re not wearing them. Historians will note this as the dawn of the Mask Bracelet. Originally for the convenience of having it handy for any store you would enter, the Mask Bracelet now communicates to passersby that you do have a mask; you’re just choosing not to wear it at the moment. 

With every style choice we make in the morning, we are communicating something about ourselves to the world. “The individual’s appearance is the ticket to transmit nonverbal communication signals such as possible cues about his / her social stature, values and lifestyle,” according to Fashion Trends and their Impact on Society. In our ideologically divided, post-pandemic world, our personal choice to mask or not communicates to those around us who we are and what we believe in.

As we in the West collectively round the pandemic corner, who’s to say where the Mask Bracelet could go from here? It could become a sartorial staple for those who believe in science and in respecting your neighbor. Like the Army jacket, de rigueur American fashion during the Vietnam War, worn by young activists to signify fighting for peace, perhaps masks could become an indicator for years to come. 

Mask, bracelet

Wearing a Mask Bracelet communicates to passersby that you do have a mask; you’re just choosing not to wear it at the moment. Photo credit: Jeremy Lindenfeld / WhoWhatWhy

2. Get Crafty With Your Style

If there’s one thing that the past year and a half has shown us, it’s that we didn’t truly know where our friends, family, and even partners stood on political and public health matters. But it’s difficult to be recognized as a Vaxxed One on the street unless one is explicit in one’s style: for example, working your vaccination card into your everyday wardrobe.

This could come in many different forms: something as simple as having your laminated card poking out of your breast pocket, or peeking out from the front pocket of your pants. Or maybe something more complex: stitching your vaccination card onto the arm of your jacket. Or perhaps we reintroduce the fedora, with our vaccine card replacing the 1940s press pass. 

As Katharine K. Zarrella and Rebecca Malinsky wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “This past year offered few occasions to get decked out, leaving fashion obsessives in a state of serious dressing withdrawal. The fall shows suggested a remedy: Make up for lost time by wearing every conceivable style, pattern and fabric at once, no matter how disparate.” 

Pick up any crafts and hobbies during the pandemic, such as jewelry making, sewing, woodworking, etc.? Consider how those could be best utilized when creating your vaccination card statement pieces. 

3. Above All Else, Just Don’t Be a Jerk

It’s Tuesday night, and you and a friend go out for ice cream. You’ve both had difficult years, and you’re both excited to be out, with two doses of Pfizer flowing through your veins. You walk into the ice cream shop, missing the sign out front that says “Masks Required,” overcome as you were with choosing what flavors you’ll stack on a sugar cone. In line, you notice that the girl behind the counter is looking at you as she helps the patrons in front of you. Even from her masked face, you can tell that all is not well. You just got here — what’s the issue? Why is she looking directly at you? As you progress to the front of the line, she inhales sharply and says in a bothered-teenager tone, “Can you please put on a mask? I can’t serve you unless you have masks on.”

You’re double vaccinated. Fauci himself says that you are in the right here. This kid must just be on autopilot from the past 15 months. However, you need to respond.

Your options to respond are:

A.) “I am double vaccinated, Fauci says it’s OK. I’ll have a double scoop of the Gold Medal Ribbon on a sugar cone, please.”

B.) “Yes, I’m sorry, it’s in the car, I’ll go grab that.”

Mask Bracelets and miniature vaccination-card earrings aside, the most surefire way to not be mistaken for an anti-masker at the end of the day is to keep choosing B. 

Keep choosing B, Vaxxed Ones.

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