The Year Fashion Masks Replaced Neck Ties and Scarves

No more Christmas ties or shirts? Our Joseph A. Bank and Men’s Warehouse are shuttered

Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash

While shopping, we spotted “Shiba Inu’’ masks. Daughter Jenny loves her Shiba (Boss, a Japanese hunting dog). A cheap yet thoughtful gift? I bought two.
Normally, any gifts I buy from late summer through fall are saved in a closet for Christmas, but that didn’t seem right: What if Americans aren’t wearing masks by Christmas?

“Open your shirt, Dad!’’

For decades, the “go-to’’ gift for holidays and birthdays was a shirt, a tie, or a scarf. Shirts or ties are so totally “expected” and normal that my wife, as a kid, started telling her father, “Open your shirt, Dad,’’ as he touched the gift box.
But we also live in one of the most locked-down states in America. The power of government: Our governor, Gretchen Whitmer, told us not to visit our moms on Mother’s Day. Birthday parties were also banned for a while.
Seven months later, the state Supreme Court said her emergency orders were illegal but in the meantime, our local Joseph A. Bank and Men’s Warehouse stores were shuttered. Many across the nation closed for good.
Adam, a young Millennial friend, showed off a beautiful suit on Sunday, telling us you can get a $1,200 suit for $200 now. Online. Another young man beamed that he got a $200 suit for $40.
And a pal, who is 55, told us he gained 30 pounds being locked down so he’s buying baggy clothes at Costco, intending to lose weight before buying any really nice clothes, which brings us back to Christmas planning.

“To beg is not an easy task, but pride is such a foolish mask,’’ — Frank Sinatra, “Let Me Try Again.’’

Are masks a suitable Christmas gift? Or more like ice cream?

After buying our daughter the dog masks, I went to our favorite Mexican restaurant in the world (if I’m being executed and have my choice of “the last meal,” El Azteco is what I’d request).
I spotted El Azteco “gaiters’’ I knew our grown kids would like. Again, pretty cheap and thoughtful (the best combination). I bought those, too. But I quickly knew they couldn’t wait for Christmas.
Masks seem like ice cream (essential in the moment, but their value fades fast) or maybe more like the Keurig coffee maker. If you were making a film about the Obama era, you’d place a Keurig somewhere in the scene.
Keurigs were huge and hot for a short time. Everyone was buying them and talking about them. I worked for a branding agency where the owner beamed with pride showing me his Keurig and all the flavors.
But fairly quickly, people started asking how wise it was to pile up all those plastic K-cups, and the well water didn’t agree with the three Keurigs we had in a short period of time. Soon, we went back to the old Mr. Coffee.
So I’m back to “my job’’ in the coffee-making process. I “push the button’’ to make the machine brew a day’s supply of coffee. My wife does the rest.

“We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.” ― Patrick Rothfuss, “The Name of the Wind.”

Dr. Deborah Birx and her scarves: The canary in the coal mine

Dr. Deborah Birx and her fashionable spring scarves were the sign of what was to come: every day at every briefing, she wore a new scarf. Locked in our homes, the scarves gave us something new to talk about.

That was when the experts told us not to wear masks, but they changed their minds: the scarves were replaced with masks. Marketers spot a trend and leap, piling on until we are buried in mountains of junk.
For seven months, all the clothing merchants sent us email marketing with fashion models in different sorts of lovely, colorful masks, even a sexy shirt with a giant turtle neck to cover your face. Nancy Pelosi was really conscientious about matching her masks and lovely outfits.
The first time I entered a clothing store after the pandemic, our friend’s cousin (the owner) gave us each beautiful fashion masks (colorful plaid patterns on the front for the ladies and blue pinstripes on the other side for the guys).
Now my car and the doorknobs on every bedroom door are piled up with masks. I have masks with messages from the Bible, Myrtle Beach, and politics. My wife has pink masks with cute little phrases, and she gave me a gray one that looks like a bra.
So even if masks are a good Christmas gift, I’m pretty certain we’ll have more than we need or want by then. So I made a special trip to our kids’ offices to drop off their masked presents.
We will get them something else for Christmas.

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”― Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Scarlet Letter.”

Joseph Serwach

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