Fashion + The Global Crisis

Coronavirus spreads as face mask owns two identities

As the coronavirus and lockdowns have spread around the world, more and more articles, videos and tweets discussing the virus have also gradually captured people’s eyeballs. If you ask me what the virus initially reminds me of, I’ll shout out: the mask! When history looks back at the 2020 trend, those white or blue rectangles that cover the mouths and noses, turning everyone into a muzzled animal, will be what we see.

Now, pictures of people wearing face masks appear in almost every news story about the virus, whether on the front page or on social media. If there is a symbol of the current anxiety and misinformation generated by the virus, it could be the face mask.

Safety, protection and a global fashion trend

In the early days of the virus, the Chinese government and medical experts urged citizens to wear surgical masks when they went out. Then people wearing face masks became common in Europe. Now, masks are pervasive around the globe and there is even a shortage of face masks in some places. In this light, masks represent safety and protection from disease and bacteria.

However, they can also be used as a way of fashion expression. In 2014, fashionable gas masks were displayed at the QIAODAN Yin Peng Sports Wear Collection Show in Beijing, China. This original idea was derived from the serious air pollution in China and making masks into fashionable and novel styles could raise people’s attention to the environmental crisis.

In a very short time, celebrities and models around the world began to post their selfies wearing a mask on social media – not only to remind the public of the importance of wearing masks, but also to express a new fashion trend. The masks originated from Asian culture, so you can find multiple masks with manifold features on Chinese shopping websites. To be honest, it is a bit surprising for me and my Chinese friends that the prosaic face mask has become a global fashion trend because of the coronavirus. 

Shorthand for racism

But because of this, masks have also become shorthand for racism. The New York Times published an article with evident stereotypes using a picture of Asians in face masks. Also, at such a critical moment, what is most infuriating is Donald Trump’s controversial and irresponsible remarks. He claimed the coronavirus was a Chinese virus, triggering a heated debate and condemnation on Twitter around the world. Therefore, face masks have flexible identities that they could represent fashion trend and also implicit accusation.

The importance of self-care

News reports and social media tweets on COVID-19 are becoming more common and making some people anxious. Here are some tips to help you control your anxiety, put news in perspective, and stay positive.

  • Put things in perspective. At this critical moment, the media reports and the comments of some bloggers will affect our personal judgment more or less. My friends and I were extremely furious when we saw Trump’s ridiculous racism speech. However, under such circumstance, why don’t you turn your anger into action: vent your rage in making him a funny GIF. As coverage increases, it is important to take the necessary precautions to keep families and loved ones healthy. 
  • Online shopping. Due to lockdowns, women can’t go to clothing stores and cosmetic counters with sisters, and men can’t hang out with dudes to buy sports shoes or drink beer; then online shopping can be your plan B to spend time and have fun! Don’t think you’re quarantined, so your fashion sense is quarantined as well. Try new clothes, new hair style, new makeup, keep your fashion style!
  • Stay connected. Maintaining a social network fosters a sense of normalcy and provides a valuable channel for sharing feelings and relieving stress. You can keep in touch by calling, texting, or chatting with people on social media platforms without increasing your risk of infection. You can always share useful information you find on government websites with your friends and family. This will help them deal with their anxiety.
  • Ask for extra help. If you feel extreme stress, lingering sadness, or other long-term negative reactions that affect your work performance or relationships, there are some incredible organisations and charities out there you can turn to for help.

By Qihan Wang

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