(But these masks are quite delightful!)
In normal years, when the holiday season arrives, I head down a deep dark hole and hibernate there until all the party-goers have gone to sleep it off and it’s safe to re-emerge.
But not all people are misanthropic goats like me, and some of them even want to celebrate Christmas/Winter Solstice/Kwanzaa/Diwali/Hanukkah/Las Posadas/non-denominational holiday of choice with family and/or friends and/or attractive strangers, pandemic or no pandemic.
This gave me to think. You, being all sociable and well-adjusted and the like, are probably getting dressed up and sallying forth sometime this month. And you likely don’t want to top off your glamorous outfit with a mask you got out of a ten-pack in Surgical Blue or Grim Reaper Black.
Can masks be a fashion statement?
Unequivocally, yes. Some masks absolutely can, the operative word being “some.”
Like any other item of clothing, I think masks can project certain messages. They can cover the full spectrum, ranging from “I’m covered enough not to be illegal; can’t be arsed to do laundry too” (think ill-fitting, one-size-fits-none disposable masks that gapes open at the top and sides) all the way to “I’m mysterious, alluring, and something fascinating awaits discovery beneath.”
Which latter is what I’m hoping to evoke with our latest style. Bit ambitious for a simple mask, maybe. But designers without ambition are like eggnog recipes without rum: they exist, but shouldn’t.
Compare and contrast the following two concepts:
The Sparrowhawk mask
This is the mask style for people who don’t mind being surreptitiously stared at.
If ever a mask could be said to make a statement, this one does. Co-ordinate one of these with your office suit or party dress, and suddenly the face mask gets elevated from merely utilitarian to the perfect finishing touch to a thoughtful ensemble.
Here are several examples of the breed, both plain and embellished:
Pros, cons, and undecided
The geometric, angular design forms what can only be described as a beak, which projects far enough off your face to give you loads of breathing room. The extra 3D space is definitely a pro.
It’s very structured, with a three-layer mask folding into side panels that are at least six layers thick. It’s the face mask equivalent of a super-secure, ultra-modern skyscraper. Just so we’re clear, the part directly over your breathing passages contains only three layers, because you still need to breathe. It’s a myth that thicker is better, beyond a certain point.
Is all that a pro or con? It’s a pro if you prefer a solid-feeling mask that stands upright on your face. It’s a con if it feels too rigid for you, and you’d rather have something a bit cuddlier and more flopsy-soft.
The extra layers at the side panels definitely forms a better barrier, and makes them sturdy enough so gaping is generally a non-issue. But the trade-off is that not as much air can move through those 6 plies, which bothers some people and others don’t even notice.
I personally find the panoramic height of the “beak” compensates for any restriction through the sides, and the three layers over my nose and mouth allow more than enough air flow. I went for a brisk hike in a Sparrowhawk mask and had no trouble at all. In fact, I think this might become my go-to style, because I like the solidity and the extra vertical space over my nose. Plus it does look so interesting.
But if you’re highly sensitive to the least reduction in breathability, you might be best off in a mask designed mainly for easy breathing, like the Gondola mask. There’s a certain charm to its Empty Child aesthetic, if you’re into that (if you don’t do Doctor Who references, think WW2 gas masks).
And we’re off to the ball!
The drama of the Sparrowhawk mask lends itself especially well to ornamentation. I rummaged through my box of shiny things, and put together a few fun possibilities for your next party, special event, or just showing your festive spirit at work:
By the way, all of these embellished masks are being offered for sale here while they last. We’ll match each one sold with a mask to be donated to a local shelter (especially in child sizes and unusual sizes, which are harder for them to come by).
We have enough special materials left to make another one or two of some of these, while others are really one-of-a-kind. They’re gone when they’re gone.
You can find regular (undecorated) Sparrowhawk masks here. These can be made in any number of fabrics from our vast fabric galleries to match your outfit, so your imagination is the only limit.
Happy holidays to one and all!