Eye On Apparel: Putting On Your Best Face

 

Face masks. The product gleaned worldwide headlines for all of 2020 and has remained the subject of many pivotal business conversations, press talks, personal discussions and fashion statements. Now face masks have become an everyday safety measure and accessory for most—if you aren’t being reminded to wear a mask before exiting the house, then you can count on seeing signs throughout your place of work, and in public spaces, urging you to “mask up.” We’ve seen the evolution of face masks, with an endless assortment of colorful, uniquely printed and customized cloth masks, bandanas, neck gaiters and more with different methods of keeping the masks securely and comfortably fastened to the wearer. We’ve also seen face masks become the subject of many social media campaigns, like #WearADamnMask, which drew tagged posts from celebrities, like Tory Burch, Reese Witherspoon, Ezra Williams and Mindy Kaling; #LoveThyNeighbor, supported by the Catholic Health Association; and American Medical Association’s #MaskUp. And for individuals, brands and causes promoting themselves via custom face masks, there’s hardly another method of marketing that’s nearly as in your face—literally—but also needed.

Face masks are recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization for preventing the spread of novel viruses like the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus. They are designed to act as a filter, preventing wearers from spreading virus-carrying particles—and it looks like most Americans are on board with wearing them. Slickdeals, an online platform for retail coupons and discounts, released the results of its nationwide survey of 5,000 Americans in November 2020, which included 100 participants per state, on mask-wearing behaviors. Although there was a significant variation in peoples’ mask-wearing behaviors depending on where they live, nationwide more than eight in 10 Americans (83 percent) said they wear a face mask whenever they are in public, regardless of whether it is required by law or not. States where residents are least likely to mask up are South Dakota (54 percent) and Wyoming (54 percent), and states with the most mask-wearers are Rhode Island (96 percent), Connecticut (95 percent) and Hawaii (94 percent). 

Although all face masks offer some level of protection, some materials are more effective than others, so different masks serve different purposes. According to the CDC, the most effective face masks are N95 respirators, which are generally reserved for health-care workers and are in the highest demand. When N95 respirators are not available, surgical masks are next in line, which are also disposable but cannot block the transfer of some very small particles, like N95 respirators can. For public wear and everyday use, Business Insider suggests standard cloth masks. The masks most suitable for public, indoor and/or crowded settings are hybrid and two-layer cotton masks. The World Health Organization recommends that fabric masks be made of three layers: an inner layer that absorbs particles, a middle layer that filters particles and an external layer made from a nonabsorbent material. And for outdoor areas, Business Insider suggests a simple tea towel or dishcloth, or perhaps more conveniently, a 100-percent cotton t-shirt mask or a natural silk mask. What these cloth masks share in common is that they can be rewashed and used again and again, offering a greener, more cost-effective option. 

Mask-wearing can help contain spread, which can help save lives. A study conducted by the coronavirus forecasting team at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation—and published in late October 2020 in Nature Medicine, an academic journal—forecasts that if 95 percent of Americans wore masks, more than 100,000 lives would be saved between then and February 2021. Armed with these facts, why do some Americans choose not to wear masks?—a group that’s also referred to as “anti-maskers,” according to BBC. In late August 2020, Brookings Institute published its National Panel Study of COVID-19, a survey of 5,897 nationwide respondents, and found that 20 percent of respondents, or one in five Americans, said they didn’t wear face masks. When asked why, the majority (40 percent) of them said, “It is my right as an American to not wear a mask,” and nearly one in four (24 percent) said, “It is uncomfortable.” Less common reasons included “I don’t have access to a mask” (18 percent), “The coronavirus is a conspiracy” (11 percent) and “I don’t want to be mistaken for a criminal” (seven percent)—the latter of which was indicated by 67 percent of men of color who chose not to wear masks. 

To persuade hesitant mask-wearers, or to make the mask-wearing experience more enjoyable, brands can encourage safe practices with unique, custom masks that make a statement, encourage a smile, support a cause, express individuality, allow wearers to stay protected during an event or simply to blend in with their day-to-day look. To urge young people to practice mask-wearing, many local communities and institutions have conducted their own campaigns. Cook County in Chicago went the social media route with its Mask Up Cook County initiative, conducted through September 2020 and targeting residents ages 20 to 29—those with the highest rate of spread in the area—with digital ads across Instagram, YouTube and Spotify in English and Spanish. In June 2020, the Kentucky Educational Development Corporation invited statewide K-12 students to submit their design ideas for masks for the chance to win a $100 Visa gift card. In late September 2020, Twitter took to endorsing mask-wearing, using billboards to display pro-mask-wearing tweets shared by users, such as “if you dont wear a mask im gunna assume ur breathe stinks” [sic] and “People who wear a mask are considered more attractive remember that” [sic]. Twitter also updated its logo to feature the blue bird wearing a face mask, and changed its location to “everywhere, wearing a mask.” 

We can look for several new trends in face masks this year, according to Stylecaster, like embellished face masks, featuring sparkly accents and texture; eco-friendly, sustainable, disposable face masks; unique chains for face masks, from chunky to dainty and everything in between; and breathable, athletic face masks. Also very sought after are hyper-customized and unique face masks. Etsy, an online marketplace for artists and makers, has become a go-to source for one-of-a-kind masks, and sold 29 million masks worth $346 million during the second quarter of 2020, according to CNN. From allover ombre mermaid prints to dainty floral designs, neon tie-dye, plaid, animals and caricatures, and seasonal and holiday prints, to extra-silly face masks with cartoonish grins and masks that give the illusion of a face, there’s no parameters to the recall that face masks can offer brands and the usage, safety and personality they can bring to end users’ day-to-day getup year round.

The Gaiter Fleece Hood is a great companion for end users participating in outdoor activities, like sports leagues or cleanup crews; to offer as a gift-with-purchase to event ticket-holders; or to offer in an employee or team store. Made from a blend of 55-percent cotton and 45-percent polyester fleece, the sweatshirt features a soft-hand, unisex style with a double-ply built-in neck gaiter, keeping wearers warm and offering them a way to practice safer measures in public. Additional details include cover-stitching throughout, a set-on pouch pocket and a tearaway label. Available in XS-3XL in five colors, shown in true navy (left) and cool royal heather (right).

J. America  /  PPAI 351699, S1  /  www.jamericablanks.com

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Communicate a bold and eye-catching message with the Polyester Mask CPCR035. This non-medical three-ply face mask contains a polyester outer layer and two cotton jersey inner layers for added protection. Soft and breathable, and great for an everyday grab-and-go mask, it's also washable and reusable, and has stretchable ear loops with adjustable slides for a custom fit.

Crown/IMAGEN BRANDS  /  PPAI  113430, S10  /  www.imagenbrands.com

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Made from 100-percent organic cotton, the EC9020 face mask is both washable and reusable. The masks feature a two-ply fabric dual layer system with breathable rib fabrication, measuring 7.5 inches by five inches. Perfect for screen-printing or customizable with a uniquely designed patch, the mask is available in one size fits most, in pacific (shown), black (shown), charcoal and olive.

alphabroder  /  PPAI 159993, S16  /  www.alphabroder.com

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For added protection, the PrevaGuard™ 2-Ply Face Mask is not only two-ply, but it contains an EPA-registered antimicrobial additive that should last the lifetime of the product. The 100-percent cotton, Manchester Mills-branded mask boasts a comfortable wear, and features a patent-pending elastic design on the bottom to curve under the chin. Available in one size fits most in navy or white, and also available in a three-ply style, the mask’s odor-prevention properties can last up to 20 washes, but it can be worn for general protection for many times after.

Koozie Group  /  PPAI 114187, S13  /  www.kooziegroup.com

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If you're offering masks, then why not the kind that makes other smile underneath theirs? The Full Color Face Mask is a three-ply polyester and foam mask with multiple ear openings for easy adjustment. A full-color imprint allows for sharp and clear photographic quality to communicate brand messaging, with stock images available. Available in one size fits most.

Koozie Group  /  PPAI 114187, S13  /  www.kooziegroup.com

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A bestseller, the Gaiter Hoodie is a classic pullover offering in-your-face branding with a front imprint and a sublimated built-in gaiter. Made from a blend of 50-percent cotton and 50-percent polyester fleece, the fleece fabric is soft and pill-free, and the sweatshirt features rounded drawstrings, a front pouch pocket, and ribbed cuffs and hem. Available in black, navy, safety orange, charcoal, sport grey and royal (shown) in S-3XL.

FPS Apparel  /  PPAI 273314, S1  /  www.fpsapparel.com

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The Neck Gaiter face covering is something that wearers can grab and go, or easily carry on their person or in the car. The gaiter is 100-percent polyester and has a UPF of 30, blocking up to 95 percent of UV radiation. Its four-way stretch fabric allows for a snug fit during activity, while moisture-wicking and antimicrobial properties keep the wearer clean and dry. It also features two-ply for added protection, is washable and reusable, and is multifunctional—when wearers aren't using it as a face covering, it can double as a headband, wristband or neck warmer. Available in one size fits most in seven colors, shown in grey space dye.

Charles River Apparel  /  PPAI 111644, S10  /  www.charlesriverapparel.com

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These fashionable, fun and ever-so glimmering Sequin Face Masks call glistening attention to your client's brand. Featuring two-ply soft mesh liner with an insert for a disposable filter, brands can add a custom logo message or print. Available in silver, purple, pink (shown), black, red and royal (shown).

Foxyware/Vegas Golf  /  PPAI 368029, S1  /  promoplace.com/vegasgolffoxyware

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Ideal for front-facing clients, like those in the foodservice and hospitality industries, are coordinating face masks and aprons. Made from 100-percent polyester, the BGM21 face mask is moisture-wicking and features 100-percent cotton jersey lining with elastic ear loops. It’s available in nine colors, shown in purple and navy, with the option to add on a complementary gaiter. The BG1280 Teflon-treated twill waist apron (left) is made from a blend of 65-percent polyester and 35-percent cotton twill, and it’s treated with DuPont Teflon fabric protector for long-lasting wear. It’s also stain- and wrinkle-resistant, and has four patch pockets and back ties for a custom fit. Available in 13 colors, shown in purple. For fuller coverage, the BG1271 cotton denim bib apron is made from 100-percent sand-washed denim and features antique brass hardware, four patch pockets, an adjustable neck strap and back ties. Available in vintage blue.

Blue Generation  /  PPAI 174655, S11  /  www.bluegeneration.com

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The HeiQ V-Block Face Mask is two-ply and made from 100-percent polyester, but it’s also hypoallergenic and made of 100-percent cosmetic ingredients. The face mask has a cup-shaped breathable area and non-breathable side fabrics that offer a snug fit for all face shapes with minimal leakage. Made from 72-percent bio-based carbon and recycled materials, it produces approximately 60 times less waste than disposable face masks. Its HeiQ patient-pending Vesicle technology is active for up to 30 washes. Includes a bag for easy storage. Available in black in youth/small and adult.

Charles River Apparel  /  PPAI 111644, S10  /  www.charlesriverapparel.com

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All this talk about masks begs the question of where to safely house and transport the mask when it’s not in use. The Face Mask with Matching Carrying Case offers a solution. The three-ply polyester fashion mask—available in black (shown), gray and navy—is reusable and washable, and features a cozy cotton interior layer, adjustable ear loops and a wire noise piece that prevents glasses from fogging. Made from the same polyester as the face mask, the case features a Velcro closure and includes a carabiner clip to easily attack to a beltloop or backpack; available in black. Both items are reusable and machine washable.

Peerless Umbrella  /  PPAI 112666  /  www.peerlessumbrella.com

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A soft and greener face covering, the Organic Cotton Pleated Mask is perfect for everyday use. It’s reusable and machine-washable, and features two-layer, breathable fabric, with an outer later made from 100-percent cotton. Elastic ear loops secure onto wearers’ ears, and they can adjust their size with clips for a perfect fit. Add a filter through the opposite side of the mask for added protection. Available in black and natural (shown). 

Leed's  /  PPAI 112361, S13  / www.pcna.com/leeds

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For young children, the Hanes Youth X-Temp Comfort Mask is a comfortable, easy-to-wear solution. Made from a blend of 60-percent cotton and 40-percent polyester, the masks are fitted for children ages 5-8 and features X-Temp™ technology to adjust to the child’s temperature, keeping them cool and dry all day long. The two-ply mask is breathable and features moisture-wicking fabric, and it also has ear loops constructed from soft cotton yarn with internal rubber banding for a snug fit. It’s reusable up to 20 washes and available in black, satellite blue, natural pink, gray heather and white (shown).

Hanes  /  PPAI 191138, S10  /  www.hanes.com

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The Long Sleeve Full Dye Sublimation Gaiter T-Shirt is a useful choice for consumers to wear during work and play. Made from 95-percent polyester and five-percent spandex high-performance fabric, the shirt is lightweight, moisture-wicking and features UPF 50+ sun protection. Each shirt is individually poly-bagged. Available in both men’s and women’s XS-6XL.

Eversole Run  /  PPAI 199242, S5  /  www.eversolerun.com

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Something to offer event attendees or participants, or even schoolchildren, to encourage safer practices in public, the Mask with Straw Hole and Adjustable Ear Straps allows wearers to sip at their convenience. The sublimated polyester- and cotton-blend mask features a metal nose bridge and straw hole.

BamBams  /  PPAI 255565, S9  /  www.bambams.com

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Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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