Sunday, 30 January 2011

Hidden faces

The face mask has mysteriously become the fashion must-have for Japanese teenagers. But they're reluctant to explain why.

Many Japanese wear face masks to protect themselves against flu germs and bugs in general. The masks are a common sight when you're walking down a street.

But now teenagers en masse are wearing them, even if they couldn't care less about flu. It's become a cult accessory you just can't be seen without.

Because they don't want to explain themselves, social commentators are busily trying to interpret this strange phenomenon.

The mask-wearers, they say, are so shy they want something to hide behind. It's a way of retreating from society even when they're in a crowd of people. They want to be anonymous, they want to look just like everyone else.

Or maybe they're simply poking fun at all the germ-obsessed individuals who insist on wearing face masks even though they offer little or no protection.

It wouldn't happen here. The British are far too self-conscious to go around wearing face masks, even if they were terrified of catching flu.

And if they want something to hide behind, their preferred option is a thick layer of make-up or a voluminous beard.

Face masks are strictly for Nurse Jackie. Or bank robbers.

25 comments:

Scarlet Blue said...

I don't know, it could work over here. But if it caught on I think the masks would be customised and blinged up, as we like our individualism in the UK.
Sx

Scarlet Blue said...

...actually that's a bit weird... we like to be part of the pack whilst being individual!
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - The Japanese do have prettier face masks and even designer masks at the usual extortionate prices. And yes, the face masks just show how conformist we all are deep-down!

nursemyra said...

I like this kind of mask

http://boingboing.net/2008/12/04/tatted-mask.html

Nick said...

Myra - A very beautiful and intricate mask. Only thing is, it doesn't in any way hide the wearer's identity....

rummuser said...

In Indian towns and cities, women are now using two wheelers to move around. Pollution spoils their complexion! All of them wear face masks to protect themselves from the elements and the pollution. My brother from London on a recent visit thought that suddenly a lot of Muslim young women have taken to riding around on two wheelers. http://www.centralchronicle.com/viewnews.asp?articleID=45761

secret agent woman said...

Teenagers, I think, often do things just to make older people shake their heads.

secret agent woman said...

But wearing a face mask would make me claustrophobic. I had to when tearing down old drywall and I hated it. You can't breathe properly in them.

Val said...

A beard! Now that's something I've not thought to try wearing!
;)

Nick said...

Ramana - Unfortunately face masks are not much protection against pollution. Perhaps oxygen masks might be more useful?

Secret Agent - True, teenagers are often just out to baffle everyone. Next month they'll be going round in blindfolds. I think a face mask would make me claustrophobic as well.

Val - I don't think it would suit you though. Unless it was for the Fidel Castro Lookalike Contest.

Eryl said...

I expect the teenagers are refusing to explain because they don't have an explanation. Maybe the person who started it has a rational, but the rest probably follow instinctively like most trend followers.

Macy said...

I could hvae done with a face mask last Friday. The woman at the desk next to mine was wearing a bucketload of dire perfume.

On the plus side itput me right off eating anything at lunchtime...

Wisewebwoman said...

Unless the air becomes a lot more polluted, I will avoid. Beijing is a place you'd see a lot of them.
Also in Toronto, last time I was there, worn only by people of obvious Asian ancestry.
Never thought of it as fashion accessory though. Interesting times. Bet there would be a ban if they were in common use (identities hidden on crime cameras, etc.)
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Eryl - You're probably right, most of them are just vacantly following the trend.

Macy - Eeek! A waft of overpowering perfume is a horrible experience. She probably wears it so often she no longer notices how strong it is.

W3 - True, the identification issue would stop it becoming a widespread fad in Britain.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

It's still relatively rare in my city, but it could certainly catch on. I'd like to know why they are doing it, too, the original reasons since most of them at this point are simply copying a trend.

Nick said...

Heart - I'd like to know too. Who had the bright idea of face masks as fashion rather than medical aid?

Roses said...

Ummm...I think that's one trend I'll give a miss.

I like being able to smile at strangers in the street. It freaks them out and gives me a small pleasure.

Baino said...

Hmm interesting. We have a large particularly Korean and Chinese population near where I live and they're prone to mask wearing but usually when the flu is about. Not a bad idea really. Beats someone sneezing all over you and in Japan blowing your nose in public is considered very rude. But as a fashion accessori? Didn't Michael Jackson start that one off?

Nick said...

Roses - I like the idea of smiling at strangers and freaking them out. I must try it.

Baino - I hadn't thought about masks containing sneezes. I'd forgotten about Jacko's masks as well. And didn't hygiene-freak Howard Hughes wear a face mask?

kylie said...

those masks are so suffocating and it's so hot here at the moment i cant think of anything worse

Nick said...

Kylie - I can imagine they'd be intolerable in the sort of weather you're having in Sydney. Sydney's teenagers will have to think of a different fashion trend....

Suburbia said...

Yes, not my choice of attire, but then neither is a beard!!

Nick said...

Suburbia - No, I can't see you in a beard (and I do have a picture of you!).

Liz said...

When my mother-in-law was hospital recently we had to wear masks to go in and visit her. I pretended I was the doctor ...

Nick said...

Liz - That was a bit rash. Some of the other patients might have asked if you could cure them....