Few events in recent years have changed American culture as much as COVID-19. Aside from closed storefronts and the lack of traffic, one of the most visible post-COVID changes is the addition of a face mask to our everyday wardrobe.
In March of this year, countless Americans scrambled to find something around the house to turn into a face mask. Sure, bandanas, scarves and old pocket squares served as quick fixes, and there are thousands of cloth face masks for sale online. Now, many dapper dudes are now left wondering how to style a face mask to look cohesive with their outfit. Three months later, after trying different options, we know a lot more about face masks and how to mesh them with our own personal style. Of course, style considerations should absolutely be secondary to safety. That being said, if we’re going to wear face masks, how can we wear them well?
As the U.S. begins to open back up, it’s widely understood that face masks are going to be the norm, including in the workplace. That means knowing how to style a face mask is a useful skill. For example, if you’re a suit and tie kind of guy and have to be at the office, you might need a mask that looks more professional instead of one with the Slayer logo across it. If you work in a high foot-traffic location, it might be wise to find something with a friendly print but also highly protective. Likewise, your DIY bandana face mask might be effective, but it likely won’t inspire confidence if you have to deal with customers in the workplace. For all these reasons, how you style your face mask matters. Of course, if you’re working from home and just leave for groceries or to stretch your legs, then your range of options are a little wider.
In this post, we’ll talk about how to style a face mask and wear it correctly in your everyday day life. We’ll do our best to answer a number of questions related to face masks and style:
- What Are the Different Types of Face Masks?
- How to Choose the Best Face Mask
- How to Wear a Face Mask With Sunglasses
- How to Stop a Face Mask From Fogging Up Your Glasses
- How to Style a Face Mask: Do’s and Don’ts
What Are the Different Types of Face Masks?
There are a handful of face mask types for sale right now. Each works in a different way, but they all perform the same job in protecting the wearer from airborne droplets that could contain coronavirus. Here are the best types we’ve found:
Face Cover – A face cover is the simplest type of safety mask. Most of these masks come with two elastic loops that loop around either the ears or the neck and the back of the head. This includes the disposable blue masks you see lying all over the street as well as many of the new products coming to market from our favorite brands. If fabric-based, the face cover is typically dual-layer, as per CDC guidelines, and sometimes has a space for a filter in between the layers. The face cover is the most refined mask option for a professional-type atmosphere because of the wide range of colors and prints available. The mask pictured below comes from athletic apparel company Koral, and it’s especially useful as an athletic face mask.
Bandana: The bandana was one of the most commonly used DIY masks at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak because many people already had them around the house. These can be folded diagonally for wider coverage, but we prefer the hair tie method pictured in this CDC infographic:
Balaclava: Outdoorsmen and snowsport enthusiasts may have had a balaclava handy in the house to use as a mask. A balaclava, made from a stretchy material, is pulled over the head and worn over some or most of the head with a wide hole across the eyes to see through. These are typically made for cold or warm temperatures to regulate body heat because it can cover the scalp.
Neck Gaiter: A neck gaiter is a type of balaclava, but it’s cylindrical, so it won’t always provide full-head coverage. Most neck gaiters are used to cover everything from the nose down, and if you’re in the sun, the back of your neck as well.
Scarf: Hipsters and snowmen both had lightweight scarves on hand (and face) to use as makeshift DIY face masks. These can be used simply by wrapping around the head twice and tying in the back. As we move into warmer months, it may be more difficult to use this much fabric as a face mask. Anecdotally, this style is more popular with women than men.
How to Choose the Best Face Mask
Before you buy a face covering, you need to find the best face masks for your daily lifestyle. Think about factors like:
- The virus risk potential of your workplace
- How much time you spend out of the house
- How often you exercise, and how often you encounter other people while you exercise
- If you have a beard that needs covering
- Your respiratory strength
- If you wear glasses or sunglasses
After compiling your answers, you may find that having multiple types of masks makes sense.
For those who have been following the news, you may be familiar with terms like “N95” and “respirator,” which are two types of medical-grade face masks best suited for healthcare professionals and anybody else who works on the front lines of this pandemic. And according to the CDC, cloth masks are perfectly fine for public use, especially when accompanied with social distancing.
How To Wear a Face Mask With Sunglasses
And then there are sunglasses. Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ve walked into a bank and thought, “gee, if this were any other day, I’d be on the six o’clock news looking like this.” Of course, that’s just life here in the darkest timeline. In 2019, wearing a face covering and sunglasses screamed, “I’m about to rob a bank.” Today, not so much.
Glasses, to begin with, look best when paired with specific head shapes. For example, round frames will look best on a square-shaped face whereas rectangular glasses work well on a round or oval-shaped face. It can be tricky, but there’s an aesthetic science to it. When it comes to wearing sunglasses with a face mask, the rules change. Instead of basing the frame shape on the face shape, it’s best to consider the dynamic of the glasses and the mask together.
For example, a wayfarer frame shape works well for dress, casual and sporty outfits, which means it will also work with all types of masks. Wear it with a work-appropriate face covering to the office and then on a weekend hike with your favorite moisture-wicking neck gaiter.
A sporty frame shape works best for athletic, outdoor and utilitarian outfits and is best suited for sporty masks. Wear this kind of frame for group outdoor adventures with your protective neck gaiter or balaclava face mask. If you just said, “but I wear my Oakleys to the office all the time,” please see me after class.
Finally, when pairing sunglasses with a face mask, consider how much of your face is left exposed. If the sunglasses and face covering combined leave little to no skin showing, you’re going to have to accept a slightly awkward look. That being said, wearing sunglasses and face masks doesn’t have to be awkward.
How to Stop a Face Mask From Fogging Up Your Glasses
While we’re on the topic of sunglasses, you may have experienced that fogging issue while wearing sunglasses or glasses and your face mask. It’s annoying and can be potentially dangerous. Besides investing in a contact lens subscription, what can you do?
Luckily, there are a few easy hacks to prevent your lenses from fogging up. This will let you wear both glasses and masks together with ease.
Use Soap and Water: The most common method of defogging glasses is making them fog-proof in the first place. To do this, wash your lenses in soapy water and allow them to air dry. This creates a thin film on the lens that makes it semi-resistant to fogging up. Repeat this as often as necessary.
Wear Your Mask Higher: If wearing a neck gaiter, bandana or face mask, pull it up higher on the bridge of your nose and press down with your sunglasses to weigh down the fabric and block the upward flow of air.
Tape Down Your Mask: Use paper or plastic micropore tape, or whatever you find that’s safe for skin, to fasten your mask to your nose and cheeks. This method is common in surgery rooms in order to block airflow into doctors’ glasses.
How to Style a Face Mask 101
The CDC has given us plenty of guidelines about wearing face masks safely, but they haven’t said anything about the Do’s and Don’ts of how to style a face mask. If you’re worried about looking professional at work or just want to make a positive impression when out in the world, here are a few rules-of-thumb for the next time you get ready to leave the house.
- DO treat your face mask as an accessory, not an extension of your shirt
- DO wear a solid or textured mask if wearing a tie
- DO wear a more refined face mask if dressing up (no avocado prints)
- DO cover your beard if you have one
- DO wear a neck gaiter as you would an ascot or cravat
- DO leave N95 face masks for medical professionals and front line workers (that’s just good taste)
- DON’T wear a scarf as a face mask during the summer (balaclavas are okay for boats if well ventilated)
- DON’T wear a neck gaiter with a tank top. Ew.
- DON’T mix printed masks with similarly printed clothing; follow the same guidelines as you would when matching dress shirts and ties
- DON’T dress up a face mask with an overly busy print
- DON’T wear a face mask and aviator sunglasses to a bank
To help you incorporate face masks into your everyday style, we’ve also included some masks, cool bandanas and sunglasses that will serve you well this summer. Remember: when it comes to styling face masks, safety is always more important than style.
1. The Face Cover (Casual) – Nifty Genius Mask in Hawaiian Print
BEST FACE MASK STYLE
There are many types of masks, but the official name for this style is a “face cover.” The face cover is the most common type of mask with many options available from popular brands. You can easily find stylish prints and graphic options. This mask, from Los Angeles-based Nifty Genius, is a dual-layer, breathable fabric face cover that includes an inner pocket to insert a filter for extra protection. Available in solid black and three seasonal prints, this mask also features adjustable ear bands to find your most comfortable fit. With every purchase of a Nifty Genius mask, the company will donate one to a front line worker at a number of locations. Style this mask (shown) with a solid polo, button-up or tee and your choice of flat front shorts or chinos.
Matching Sunglasses: Quay Australia Poster Boy 47mm
The aviator, a timeless, versatile frame style, is the perfect kind of frame to wear with your face cover. Appropriate for any kind of setting, the aviator is a rounded-corner, medium size that fits perfectly on just about all types of faces. This brown lens and frame from Quay Australia is a perfect color combo for this mask.
2. The Face Cover (Professional) – Banana Republic Face Mask 3-Pack
BEST FORMAL FACE MASK
The face cover style is the most versatile among mask types. It’s minimal and refined, making it perfect for a dressier or professional-type environment that requires a suit or shirt and tie. Despite that, there are still fabrics you can find that work for your personal style and are compliant with all-day dress code. For example, if you have to go to work with a suit and tie, it’s best to stick to a solid or textured fabric mask. If you typically wear solid colors, you’ll be fine, but there’s potential for overkill if you’re wearing too many patterns at once. It’s not fun to wear a black mask all the time, which is why Banana Republic, one of our go-to sources for men’s professional apparel, is now giving us masks. This three-pack of masks features a tri-layer design and is completely washable and reusable. These three colors are common neckwear colors to make dressing up for work a little bit easier.
Matching Sunglasses: Oliver Peoples Forman LA 51mm Sunglasses
Today, one of the most stylish, on-trend frames for men is the retro shape, like this Oliver Peoples Forman. The tortoise shell frame is the ideal versatile option for guys who like to wear both colorful and monochrome outfits.
3. The Bandana – Rothco Trainmen Paisley Bandana
EASIEST TO WASH
Matching Sunglasses: Randolph P3 Shadow
While we love aviators, we’re also fans of the round frame. Round frames look a little classier than an aviator, and juxtaposed with a bandana, there’s something kind of magical about them. Randolph, made in Massachusetts, is one of the staple eyewear brands for pilots and even had their products worn in Top Gun. Because of the thin frames and round lens, they leave more of your face exposed, which makes them the best sunglasses to wear with face masks.
4. The Neck Gaiter – Bassdash UPF 50+ UV Protection Neck Gaiter
BEST FOR SPORTS AND OUTDOORS
The neck gaiter, even pre-COVID, is a must for spring and summer outdoor activities. It’s an excellent way to protect your face and neck from UV rays, allowing you to stay out in the field or out on the water longer. Today, the neck gaiter makes for a sporty and easily maneuverable face mask. For example, if your gym is still closed and you’ve resorted to outdoor exercise, wearing a neck gaiter allows you to quickly pull up if encountering pedestrians and pull it down to breathe while you work out. The easy up/down also makes it possible to comply with local regulations for anybody who has trouble breathing through a mask for extended periods of time.
This neck gaiter from Bassdash is made from a four-way stretch fabric that is quick-dry, toxin-free and more importantly, breathable for long-term wear. Wear this with the athletic gear best suited for your sport. If you’re in the market for something new, check out one of these new athletic apparel brands.
Matching Sunglasses: Torege Polarized Sports Sunglasses
When it comes to running, fishing or cycling, your sunglasses would be protective, comfortable and most importantly, they should stay on your face at all times. These Torege sunglasses hit all the stops. They’re lightweight with superior grip on the nose and ears, so you don’t need to worry about them falling off. They’re polarized and come with three two additional lenses to adjust based on your specific activity.
5. The Scarf — Gerinly Color Block Summer Scarf
HOW TO BE BOHO
Scarves on guys in non-cold months can look very, let’s say, artsy, but it’s a fine line between artsy and pretentious. As a face mask, especially as the weather warms up, they’re the less common choice. But in some major cities, guys are still rocking them with their regular attire and look awesome. In order to make a scarf an effective mask, wrap once or twice around your face, depending on the fabric, tie in the back to secure it, and drape over your shoulder. There’s something very Beatles about this type of look, and it should be styled as such. Pair this back with earth tones, white denim, and a neutral sandal to create a perfect boho look that’s farmer’s market ready.
MATCHING SUNGLASSES: Ray-Ban 48mm Sunglasses
For this type of style, a trendy frame is best, like this polygon, angular frame from Ray-Ban. Between the clear plastic ear grip and the light grey lens, these Italian made sunglasses will have you looking like you’re writing your screenplay at the first coffee shop to offer socially distanced seating.