I Finally Found A Mask Design I Actually Like
Through the pandemic, I have resisted the idea of the “cool” mask. I have consistently worn a mask, but I never wanted one that was fashionable or clever or somehow expressed my identity. Masks are tools to survive and help others survive a horrible episode that I hope will end; mask culture is depressing and stressful. I don’t want to like my masks. I want to live in a world where I can destroy them once and for all.
But this week I saw a mask that I really kinda love. It is, in a way, a mask that is about the unpleasantness, the absurdity, the discomfort, the frustration, of mask culture. I also find it quite funny. (Your mileage may vary.)
In short, it’s a mask that makes it appear that you’re one of those awful people wearing your mask around your chin, leaving your mouth and nose exposed, and thus rendering the thing useless.
The $28 “Wearing Mask On Bottom of Chin Illusion” mask, from Maskalike, is available with various facial features and skin tones. “It looks like you’re wearing your mask wrong (aka being a “chin masker”),” reads the product description. “But it’s actually on right! Wear it to surprise and amuse people around you.”
Maskalike is best known for masks that match your actual face, created from a photo you upload. These have been around for a while, and I found them interesting and amusing in an uncanny, lightly disturbing way. But the bottom-of-chin mask strikes me as next level, and apparently it’s not just me. Maskalike founder Danielle Baskin explained on Twitter earlier this week that even though anyone could simply upload a chin-mask selfie to the Maskalike site, “too many people asked me if we had any ‘faces wearing a mask wrong’ in stock. It is seriously like 10% of our sales right now.”
I had never heard of Baskin, but that’s apparently because I’ve been sleeping; in the past week she abruptly became one of my favorite artists/designers: Right as I was learning about this chin-mask mask, I read about her Blue Check Homes project — a prank that pretended you could get a physical variation on Twitter’s “verified” symbol mounted on your house to advertise that “there must be someone authentic and notable actively living” there. See her site for other smart and funny digital and physical creations. What a hero.
But back to the mask: One of the things that makes mask culture stressful is, in fact, other people doing it wrong; seeing a chin-masker in the grocery story literally makes me queasy. I love the way this mask subverts that awful feeling into a disarming joke, and it really would “surprise and amuse” me if I’d encountered it first in real life. I have a feeling, however, not everyone else would feel the same way: At least one person I’ve mentioned this to was appalled by the idea, saying there’s nothing funny about chin maskers.
I get that point of view. But I stand by mine: This may be the only definitively pandemic-specific object that I haven’t wished would be obliterated forever and immediately. I still don’t want any souvenir of this nightmare period, but if I had to put together a Covid-19 time capsule, this is the first thing I’d include.