Not to be a drag, but we are still very much in the middle of a pandemic. The number of COVID-19 cases has spiked nationwide in the wake of premature openings and victory laps by state leaders, eager to kick-start the economy at any cost. In the meantime, people are pitching fits about the very thing that could complete a ‘fit, Summer 2020’s literal must-have accessory: the face mask.
As we all know, one of women’s favorite pastimes is withholding sex when people do things things they don’t like, such as not owning bookcases or bed frames. But those are judgments for less divisive times; now, it’s all about what people are putting on their faces to go to the grocery store.
The face mask is this season’s hottest item because it makes your face, specifically the mouth ‘n’ nose region, all toasty and sweaty when you wear it outside; but also because the right mask makes its wearer look… good. Like, very good. Obviously, looking good is not the point of wearing a face mask in public. We’re wearing them because it’s good for us and for other people. But we’re not doing ourselves any favors by dancing around the fact that they also make us look hot, especially now that it’s officially Horny Season.
Have mandatory facial coverings slowed COVID-19 growth rate across the U.S.? Obviously. Did a meta-analysis of 172 studies around the world find face masks reduced the rate of coronavirus infection, including SARS and MERS? It sure did. Are masks a huge reason for the reduced COVID-19 transmission rate in New York City, despite the fact that it’s one of the most crowded cities in the world? You bet. Those are all extremely compelling reasons to wear a face mask, but just in case you needed one more: Face masks make everyone look significantly sexier.
There’s just something attractive about a little mystery, a little obscured identity. The masks draw attention to two of our hottest and most controllable features, our eyes and hair, creating an alluring facade that also happens to hide blemishes. Masks that hug the face highlight the jawline, while pleated masks accentuate a strong nose. Bandanas and scarves exude the same casual-hot energy that a certain Canadian rapper said: “Sweatpants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on/That’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong.”
When you’re in the mood to smooch, the human face is just as sexy when half of it is tucked away and left to the imagination… maybe it’s actually sexier.
Between the quick proliferation of coronavirus-themed face mask porn and the health department directives urging us to “get kinky,” it’s clear there’s a little more to “masks are hot” than one blog can uncover. Dare we say, echoes of BDSM? I dare not, because my mom reads my writing, but you get the drift.
While the more protective N95s and surgical masks aren’t necessarily synonymous with sex appeal (unless you’re hot for construction workers or dentists which is like, OK, having a career is a turn-on!), months into widespread mandatory wear, fabric mask offerings have evolved to the point of being straight-up stylish. The right mask can transform its wearer into any number of fun, flirty archetypes. A sleek, black number can take a look from “person wearing Doc Martens” to “extra in a 90s movie that takes place in a gleaming, cyberpunk future-scape” (instead of the horrible, dystopian present). The Matrix, but make it public health–conscious. A tie-dye mask paired with cutoffs is, like, a camp counselor who totally pulls. Bandana plus overalls is cowboy revival, which, as we established last year, is sexy as hell. And a floral, back-tie Reformation knockoff mask paired with a sundress is like… if a Bavarian milkmaid was caught in a global pandemic. You get the idea.
Ultimately, the face mask is a statement piece, and that statement is: “I actually give a fuck if the people I interact with live or die.” Anna Wintour don’t read this, but everyone else: what’s chicer than caring about public safety? What’s more attractive than prioritizing the needs of those who aren’t afforded the luxury of choosing to mask up or not? What’s sexier than the ability to see beyond yourself and make sacrifices for the sake of other people?
Until a real fix for this global pandemic is on the horizon, we’ll have to satisfy ourselves with locking eyes with a (potentially) beautiful stranger, nose and lips obscured.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.