Masks have never been popular in western countries as they are associated with fear, panic, the unknown and even the supernatural. Public executioners for centuries wore masks and dentists still do. Then there were gas masks in the Second World War. Not to mention all those recent horror films – Halloween, Joker, Stephen King’s It – which underpin the sheer awfulness of disguising your face.
That may explain why Pattaya-based farang, or what’s left of them, were slow to start using masks. The other reason is that they were impossible to find in Thailand in the early days of the pandemic. One pharmacy even had a notice perched on a chair outside the premises, “Don’t even ask.”
Masks are uncomfortable to wear, steam up your glasses, inhibit sensible conversation and prevent you from using facial recognition to turn on your mobile phone. In the age of coronavirus, they also enable undesirables of all types to hide behind them without arousing suspicion. As recently as last year, Hong Kong and France for very different reasons made it illegal to cover your face in public. How the rules have changed!
Anyway, face masks are here to stay, so we’d better get used to them. From restaurants to airlines, managers are telling us to prepare for the long haul. Many predict that face masks will be the norm for years, let alone months. There’s more to it than trying to stop the virus. Face masks show group solidarity with everyone else – you are doing your best in difficult times.
But here’s the catch. Gucci and Chanel are already creating expensive fashion masks which you will actually want to wear. Or so it is hoped. Designers, architects and fashion brands across the spectrum are using software, laser cutters and 3D printers to make millions of them. Masks in the future could have red lips sewn or painted onto them and there will be a wide choice of colours, patterns and materials. There are even transparent ones now being developed.
In other words, face masks are set to become fashion accessories in the new normal. This is not an exaggeration. Sunglasses and hats started off being sun shades but have become everyday appendages which help to create your personality and image. Lipstick began as a protection for the mouth against the plague, but look how 30 different shades of the stuff are marketed today to half the world’s population plus the metrosexuals.
The implications for Pattaya are enormous. If masks are still being worn when the bars reopen, will the new generation of masks have short messages written on them? Examples could include, “Yes you can buy me a drink,” or “Do you want to ring the bell?” or “Have you got anything younger?”
There is also going to be a growing trademark and copyright problem as cheap masks are stamped with prestigious names like Dior, Burberry and Levi’s and sold expensively at local markets. Headlines in the future could read, “Police seize thousands of fake masks in massive mall crackdown.”
The latest on the mask front is that Disney is offering for sale bundles of them with a specific theme such as Disney Princesses or Star Wars or Friends of Woody Woodpecker. These categories are popular in local Pattaya trivial pursuits quizzes, once they start again. Odd to think the answer could be taped on your mouth.