Man about town: 'Guide to face mask etiquette'

Patrick McLoughney


Patrick McLoughney


Man about town: 'Guide to face mask etiquette'

IN the era of Covid-19 and social distancing, face coverings, whether fabric or medical masks are now a part of our everyday life and a necessity when out and about or going shopping.

Far be it from me to raise questions or complaints about the mixed messaging and confusing guidelines being put forth by our Government (I'm just the style guy after all). Instead, I'm going to focus on what this means for us all going forward, and how we should respond to this "new normal" (ugh!).

There will always be some staunch defenders of their right to go mask-less and potentially infect others, and there will always be those who balk at the idea of being told to do something they don't like doing. This past weekend saw an anti-mask protest take place in Dublin and conspiracy theories are rife about why masks are an evil worse than the virus itself. But, given that the reaction to this protest was largely negative (#WearAMask and #COVIDIOTS were trending on Saturday), it would seem likely that the majority of people in Ireland will wear a mask in the spirit of playing their part to halt the spread of the coronavirus and help us to get back to our normal lives as quickly as possible.

We don't all have to agree on the rights and wrongs of the current guidelines and restrictions and it would seem that the mood of the nation is currently an argumentative and judgemental one. No one is happy about having to cover their faces when going to pick up a bag of sugar but sadly it's the way things are for now. So, what that in mind, here are some tips and suggestions on face-covering etiquette along with some places to pick up some comfortable and breathable ones.

How To Wear One

It should go without saying that for a face covering to be of any use it should cover both the nose and the mouth. But, as you may have noticed, not everyone got the memo. As for what kinds of masks are safe and acceptable, there are a few options. The WHO suggests that a fabric mask acts as a barrier to prevent to spread of the virus but only if worn correctly and in conjunction with measures such as hand-washing and avoiding touching your face. The experts also recommend that fabric masks and coverings need to be washed after every wear. When was the last time your mask saw the inside of the washing machine?

Regarding disposable masks, well there's a clue in the name. They're not designed for reuse. The Institute for Global Change advises that wearing disposable masks for a long period or reusing them makes them sodden and limits their effectiveness greatly.

How Not To Wear One

Under your chin, only covering your mouth and not your nose, only covering your nose and not your mouth (I've seen it), or, in your pocket. All of these sins make the wearing of a face-covering completely pointless. It's also ill-advised to keep fixing and fiddling with your mask as you run the risk of transferring germs from your hands to your face. If you're in a shop, pulling your mask up only as you approach the counter is also a no-no.

How To Tell Someone To Wear One

If you encounter someone who's committing a bad-masking sin or worse, ignoring the government advice completely, what should you do? Telling someone off for their non-compliance and risk a public confrontation? Or quietly call them a selfish w**ker under your breath and move away?

Confronting, shaming or stigmatising the offender is only going to get their back up and possibly cause a row. Gently pointing out to the offender that wearing a mask and or wearing a mask correctly can help protect them and others can work but will probably also cause a row. Some would suggest having a quiet word with the manager of the business question, perhaps by email after you've left so as to minimise face-to-face interaction. Let them know that you don't feel comfortable or safe shopping in their establishment unless they make it clear to their customers and staff that face-coverings are non-negotiable. Bear in mind, however, that shop owners aren't responsible for policing mask-wearing and with so many retail outlets having been closed for months, it's a lot to ask for them to turn away customers right now. Managers and shop working should encourage compliance but they are not obliged to enforce it.

If all else fails, just mutter you're disapproval under your breath/mask and physically distance yourself from the culprit.

How To Know When It's OK Not To Wear A Mask

Children under the age of 13 and people with certain disabilities or breathing difficulties are exempt from wearing face coverings. The longer this drags on, the more likely we are to see 'Face Mask Exempt' badges, in the same way, that Baby on Board badges are worn by people who are travelling while pregnant. Badge or no badge, always bear in mind that a person who's not wearing a mask may have a condition that exempts them from having to wear a mask before you confront or mutter under your mask.

With the rights and wrongs of mask etiquette covered (pun intended), we can now look at places to pick up some good ones. While it would be quite a stretch to suggest that face masks are the new must-have fashion item, it is, in fact, correct to say that face masks are both must-have and a fashion item. While we may not love them, we can make them a part of our personal style and how we express ourselves, as with any other accessory in our wardrobe.

Thankfully, there are plenty of Irish businesses making masks and it seems there's now a face mask to fit every personality, and then even goes for grumpy people! There are prints that will spark a laugh, masks dedicated to sports teams and hobbies – including video games and movie characters. For the discerning gentleman, there are masks in traditional menswear fabrics with understated designs. There are even extra-large masks for men with beards!

If you're trying to figure out where to buy face masks right now, look no further - I've included a few suggestions below based places I've purchased masks from myself.

Adidas – From Lifestyle Sports

My first mask purchase was a blue polyester sports mask from Lifestyle. A high quality, high-performance piece from the three stipes BUT, I have a very large head and the L/XL masks are very snug and pull my ears down! Normal-sized head owners should be fine.

Dani's Showroom

While a dress shop wasn't the first place I'd think of looking for men's face coverings, the ones I picked up at Dani's Showroom are the best I've found so far. They include a metal strip on top that sits on the bridge of the nose to prevent spectacle steaming and have adjustable straps for slab heads like me.

The Zipyard

Each of the Zipyards masks are made from a single, thin layer of cotton making them very breathable and comfortable. They also have a great selection of designs.

Velo Revolution

An Irish company who produce high-end cycling, triathlon and custom running clothing. Their masks are treated with a water-repelling coating so they won't absorb any sweat.

Sew Sustainable

Sew Sustainable are a Cork-based fashion brand whose motto is "mending the planet one stitch at a time". They are making custom masks for their online customers so check them out on Instagram @sew_sustainable_.

Vista Print Ireland

Vista Print have a massive selection of face masks with cool designs and unique patterns, the biggest selection I've seen so far from an Irish company.

Mask Pro offer laboratory tested, eco-friendly, ethically made, sustainable face masks that are certified for their quality and safety.

Tony Connolly/Chapps

Connolly's offer a great selection of single-layered and double-layered masks made from soft breathable cotton.