It feels like we should all be making eye contact with strangers more now that people’s mouths are covered with masks, preventing them from smiling or saying hello. But I think the opposite is true; when I go for walks, I note that in general people are withholding their gaze as well as their smiles and greetings, as if eye contact too could prove perilous.

One thing I enjoy about walking around in a masked world is observing the different masked personae I see people adopting. Around here, I’d say that (appropriately for California), I see a lot of people sporting bandanas with an air of vintage roguishness; that is to say, in a style evocative of nineteenth-century train robbers or other maverick outlaw types.

Another prominent style has a completely opposed vibe: those wearing surgical or N95 respirator style masks have a clinical look.

There are also a surprising number of people sporting what I think of as the “Arctic explorer” look, which is particularly peculiar-looking in the springtime in Los Angeles (it’s sunny and in the 70s here). These masquers usually have their collar turned up and a scarf bundled around their faces.

I’d characterize my own masked persona as slightly disheveled boho (the disheveled part is mostly because my hair (which is longer, I think, than it’s ever been in my adult life) is always getting tangled up in my mask ties. My look also has a whiff of ’70s-heiress-taken-hostage-develops-Stockholm-syndrome-robs-bank.

Here’s a fuller list of masked personae, if you’re looking for a style to make your own:

  • Arctic explorer
  • bandit
  • belly dancer
  • bride
  • dancer of seven veils
  • Darth Vader
  • deep sea diver
  • executioner
  • fencer
  • gladiator
  • harlequin
  • hostage
  • highwayman/woman
  • knight
  • niqābīah
  • phantom of the opera
  • plague doctor
  • seventeenth-century French prisoner, possibly royal
  • surgeon
  • superhero or supervillain
  • train-robber
  • Venetian masquerader
  • World War II evacuee

And if you need some visual inspiration for how to pull off glamorous masquery, behold the following nunnish, Orientalist, and robberish variations:

fair nun unmasked
Henry Robert Morland, The Fair Nun Unmasked
Arabian Nights 1942
Maria Montez as Sherazade in a still from The Arabian Nights, dir. John Rawlins (1942)


Ooh, and here’s another, which Christian Siriano tweeted. I especially like this one because it looks like the mannequin has bubbles all over her face:

pearl mask

In fact, it’s quite difficult to distinguish Siriano’s design from a house of Kareem original, made long before masks were in vogue:




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