Masking Masculinity – An overview of the mask in menswear before and after COVID-19

Groves, Andrew and Sprecher, D. 2021. Masking Masculinity – An overview of the mask in menswear before and after COVID-19. Face Off: The Provocation and Possibilities of Face Masks and Head Coverings. Manchester Metropolitan University 13 - 14 Jan 2021 Manchester Metropolitan University.

TitleMasking Masculinity – An overview of the mask in menswear before and after COVID-19
AuthorsGroves, Andrew and Sprecher, D.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

The simple cloth mask, a seemingly non-gendered and unsophisticated object, has rapidly become a symbolic, gendered, and contested artefact through its adoption in response to Covid-19. In particular, the design, marketing, and use of these masks underline long-standing narratives within menswear that are concerned with ideas of protection, armour, and masculinity.

Since April 2020, the Westminster Menswear Archive (WMA) has been documenting the rapidly evolving reaction to the pandemic in the UK through the acquisition of masks and PPE to add to the archive’s permanent collection. From the fashion industry’s initial response producing free masks for healthcare workers, to the emergence of designer iterations from companies including Burberry, J.W. Anderson and Turnbull & Asser, the masks produced in response to Covid-19 are both surprising and revealing.

While the pandemic has made the wearing of masks mandatory, over the last 20 years masks have increasingly been adopted as a motif of modern menswear. Designers, including Vexed Generation, C.P. Company, A-COLD-WALL* and Off-White, have all deliberately referenced masks within their collections. Using historical examples from the WMA, this presentation will explore the reasons why masks originally designed for industrial, military, or functional usage have become such a critical component of contemporary menswear.

KeywordsMenswear
Masculinity
Masks
Protective Clothing
Fashion Archives
COVID-19
Year2021
ConferenceFace Off: The Provocation and Possibilities of Face Masks and Head Coverings
PublisherManchester Metropolitan University

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