By Miles Socha
Surgical face masks, most an unsightly shade of blue, have become a daily necessity — and also a popular meme, doubling as a swimming pool for tiny human figurines, a disquieting flag for the pandemic, and a cringe-worthy mankini on comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.
But when designers and fashion brands started creating face masks, they began mirroring an industry still firmly devoted to men’s and women’s departments.
“They started to fall back on gendered tropes, i.e., floral and pastel masks being specifically marketed to women, while the ones marketed to men drew on the language of Savile Row, the military or pseudo-science,” marveled Andrew Groves, professor of fashion design at the University of Westminster in London. “We use this as a case study to show students how hard it is to change the realities of an industry that uses design to propagate ideals of gender roles and identities….It is incredible how even a small, seemingly unisex rectangle of fabric has become gendered and marketed differently for men or women.”