Since the pandemic emerged in March 2020, face masks have been a part of everyday life.
The University of La Verne, with Los Angeles County and much of the state and nation, requires that masks be worn in indoor spaces, with limited exceptions.
Such rules have given way to a healthy balance between safety and fashion for those who’ve begun to make a statement via their face masks.
Some students are browsing online stores to pick new masks they feel best express themselves.
Emily Alvarez, a senior photography major, said she donned a mask that represents her beliefs.
“When the pandemic started, I wanted to buy a mask that meant something to me,” Alvarez said. “I was looking on Amazon and found the mask I’m wearing right now: ‘Science is real. Black Lives Matter. No human is illegal. Love is love. Women’s rights are human rights. Kindness is everything.”
Cassandra Taffola, junior biology major, said she wore a pink face mask because the pink matched with her outfit.
Vanita Jackson, freshman criminology major, said she wore her Mickey Mouse mask because she likes how the mask feels on her face.
“This mask is more comfortable to wear multiple times,” Jackson said.
Two of seven students interviewed on their mask choices said they took their outfits into consideration when choosing which mask to wear.
Jose Martinez-Alanis, freshman psychology major, said the color mask he wears depends on how light or dark his outfit is.
Alvarez said that although she doesn’t take into consideration the outfits she wears when choosing a mask, she does consider who she is around while wearing certain face masks.
“There are particular masks I don’t wear around my family,” Alvarez said. “The ‘F*** Racism’ mask is the mask I can’t wear around them because they say that I am being disrespectful toward them,” Alvarez said.
Some ULV students contend that masks are just masks – not accessories.
Curtis Gordon, a psychology graduate student, said he doesn’t consider his outfit when he wears a face mask.
“It’s just a mask,” Gordon said. “I’ll take it off when I’m eating, so I don’t really think that my mask is a part of my fashion statement.”
Marwan Hassan, senior computer science and photography major, said he simply wore a black face mask because it was the only mask he found in his car.
Hassan believes face masks aren’t a defined clothing item to coordinate with his outfits.
“It’s a mask. I feel like it’s temporary, so it shouldn’t be a part of my outfit,” Hassan said. “Masks will eventually go away.”
Although Gordon doesn’t wear masks to express himself, he appreciates that others do.
“Just like when you are at graduation, people keep their caps plain, or they want to decorate it for them to express themselves. To some people it’s probably an expression of their self-identity and for others it’s just a mask,” Gordon said.
Sahmaia Godbolt, a freshman photography major, created a small business to sell Juneteenth masks to show her solidarity for the holiday.
Her masks are not only an extra source of income for her family, they had a deeper meaning, she said.
“The masks I designed were made to represent what Juneteenth is based on,” Godbolt said. “Juneteenth is the African-American foundation of our ancestors and ending of slavery,” Godbolt said.
Some students, when asked what their masks say about them, took the opportunity to discuss the safety reasons for masking up.
“The main priority is to keep myself and others safe,” Taffola said. “We wear these masks to prevent myself, my family members, and others from getting sick,” Taffola said.
Recent research finds that masks, when worn properly, are between 50% and 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 transmission. The variability depends on the type of mask, with cloth masks, surgical masks and N95 masks offering differing degrees of protection, the research finds. Vaccination, as required for all ULV students and employees, is the most effective way to prevent contracting the disease, according to numerous research studies. The combination of vaccination and masking offers increased protection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with public health departments across the nation.
“I think everyone should get a mask that represents themselves and their personality. Even if the mask just has a character on it because it will make people happier to wear masks for the time being,” Alvarez said.
Jaydelle Herbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.