Note — Mar 24, 2019

As Pollution Gets Worse, Air-Filtering Face Masks Get Fashionable

One of those instances where movie fixtures rapidly start appearing in the world. Rose Eveleth has a look at the rise of face masks, the reasons we’ll be needing them and how they are quickly turning into fashion accessories. Includes some smart thinking and quotes by Christina Xu.

The global future of air quality doesn’t look so good. As humanity continues to make little progress fighting climate change, fires are expected to get more frequent. And in some cases, like in California, that new pollution is erasing decades of improving air quality. […]

Xu points out that the density of the urban environments in these countries likely contributes to the masks’ popularity. “You’re protecting yourself from this hyper-dense, hyper-concentrated urban environment.” […]

Xu says she could see it going a few ways: It could be adopted by streetwear fans (Supreme already sells a face mask, although it doesn’t seem to actually do much in the way of safety or filtration) or by users who prefer the Burning Man aesthetic. Or perhaps the wellness world adopts these masks, in which case the product design would look quite different. “The other direction might be the sort of Lululemon-ification of the masks, if they’re treated as these essential wellness objects and they enter the world of performance fabrics and athleisure and athletic wear,” […]

In the future, these masks may be outfitted with tiny sensors that detect everything from hazardous chemicals to the electric fields nearby.