Written by: Violet Nelson

@jessmakesmagic on Instagram/ Contributed

With one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, an unexpected accessory jumped to the top in today’s world. The face mask is not a new innovative product, yet individuals wore it to try and stop the spread of COVID-19. Normally, the fashion world would not pursue an unoriginal product–like some may view the face mask–but an ordinary product that once was mainly a health statement is now also a fashion statement.

Once the fashion industry noticed their consumers were wearing face masks, they did not wait one second in producing ones with their twist on them. In a way, healthcare professionals were ahead of the trend before it hit the runway. The evolution of the face mask is here to stay in the healthcare world. But will it be in the fashion world once the pandemic subsides?

Belinda (McCormick) Banike, UW-Stout’s Program Director of BS Fashion and Retail Operations Management answers that question by saying, “It’s an odd trend to have because it wasn’t chosen by the consumer, as most trends are, it’s a necessary accessory because of where we are in the world. My guess is the trend will last as long as we are required to wear them.” 

Even though the face mask trend might not last forever, it will be a new category for brands and companies.

Although face masks can be a fashion statement for individuals, the more important statement is health. Alexandra Hall M.D., a healthcare professional at UW-Stout Health Services, said, “Wearing a mask is a statement that you care about your community and are willing to make a small personal sacrifice (of discomfort or hassle) in order to protect those around you. It’s a sign of respect and compassion.” 

By wearing face masks, the UW-Stout community would not be only helping students and staff, but also the Menomonie population. Like with the fashion industry, the health industry still is uncertain of when the requirement of face masks will be lifted. 

Dr. Hall said, “Transmission rates would need to be far lower than they currently are and immunization rates much higher before it would be appropriate to ease up on mitigation measures.” Dr. Hall also brought up a compelling point to ease up on mitigation measures one at a time before relaxing the mask requirements, but that is up to the Campus Recovery Team (CRT).

Thankfully, the Student Health Services (SHS) are educating students on face masks.  

Here is the response from the SHS director, Janice Ramaeker: “The health services have not been solo in this effort of educating our students and campus.  The approach for all of the COVID-19 education has been campus-wide, through campus communications from  Chancellor Frank,  Stout’s COVID website which includes a Q & A section, required COVID education online sessions for students/employees, faculty/staff promoting the wearing of a mask, physical distancing, and cleaning of classrooms, service departments, i.e. Memorial Student Center, dining, housing, business offices, university police, library, endorsing preventative measures and engaging in conversations regarding these measures to make our campus safer.  There are also posters and visual cues campus-wide emphasizing the importance of mask wear, etc.”

Face masks are a requirement for everyone’s safety. Wearing one is showcasing a health statement of compassion like Dr. Hall mentioned. Now, a year into the pandemic, the face mask also turned into a fashion statement. The accessory of the year is necessary for stopping the spread of COVID-19. It also lets individuals jazz up their usual outfits, making them safe and fashionable.

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