New Yorkers have increasingly embraced the wearing of masks to slow the spread of coronavirus since the pandemic began earlier this year. With no end in sight, many have moved beyond the standard surgical mask and are choosing to express themselves with more fashionable colours, patterns, flags and messages.
Children arrive for the first day of school, wearing masks covered with hearts, books, watermelons and musical notes. A school aide has a row of crayons across her mask, a welcoming design for nervous kindergarteners.
On Madison Avenue, a woman wearing a matching designer mask and scarf strides briskly past high-end clothing stores. And behind her, another sports a mask with skulls.
In Harlem, Hana Teferi steps out of a store wearing a gold, black and silver mask made in Ethiopia that she wears to honour her Ethiopian family. And actor Fredric Michaels wears a kente cloth mask that reflects his African heritage.
Camouflage masks are common. An outdoorsman dresses head-to-toe in camo with a matching mask. A construction worker chooses camo, and two friends, Samantha Fernandez and Unique Corella, wear matching blue camouflage masks.
Senior citizen Doris Shapiro wears an orange sequined mask and hat. The bright colours match her outlook: “I want to dance. I want to have fun,” she says.
Kai Waithe, with a fuchsia mask and purple hair extensions poses for a portrait: “I guess being a creative person, through music and spoken word, and living in NYC has helped me with my fashion sense. I just wear what I feel,” she says.
Retiree Gil Gainey, who worked for many years in a hospital’s human resources department, wears a paisley mask: “I’m very aware about health,” he says. We don’t know when this is going to leave so we might as well be fashionable.”
Teacher Amanda Clarke rushes into a Brooklyn high school with a message on her mask, and on many minds: “VOTE!”