Style Advice for Superheroes
How to find the perfect mask
Why does Batman wear a mask? Why does Spiderman? Flash? Elastigirl? Superduck? Mysterion? And what about Superman – he doesn`t even wear a mask, right?
Wrong! But more on that later.
The question is: how does this affect to me? These days, you are carrying a mask because you must, not because you’re a Superhero – right?
What if there was a common ground between the overdrawn Superhero and the real Superhero who gives his best each and every day to make at least the little real word around him a better place, meaning – you?
Could the mask be a common denominator? Could your mask be more than just a cover for your nose and mouth?
Part I: Your Relationship to your Mask
Why do Superheroes have masks?
All those hero characters are suited in well-checked costumes to accomplish their heroic deeds with. If you look closer, you’ll recognize that some of those costumes come without a cape; however, most of them come with a mask.
But you wouldn’t call it a protection mask. If they named it ‘Protection Mask’, Batman and his friends would receive lots of friendly letters from lots of attourneys. Only if a protection mask constructed and checked due to mandatory regulations, you are allowed to call it ‘Protection Mask’. For exsample, a breathing mask that effectively prevents toxic gas from getting in your lungs.
If you take a closer look at the bat man, it becomes very clear that his mask is no protection mask at all. His mask covers head, neck and the upper half of his face. Mouth and nose, on the other hand, remain uncovered.
And yet, his mask – like all Superhero masks – is a very important utensil! It has not only one, but two purposes.
One, the mask helps to keep the secret identity.
Two, it supports another identity. Let’s call it the Symbolic Identity.
Why do Superheroes have a secret identity?
Superheroes have superior skills. So far beyond that Superheroes define an own league. No access granted to Joe Bloggs. This, of course, is also the league of the super villain. Gee, what a lucky Batman to have Joker as opponent! Otherwise, he had to chase ordinary shoplifters. Yak.
Now, the ordinary Superhero is (in most cases) just an ordinary guy like you and me. Therefore, it’s not possible to be on 24/7 Super-duty. So, our Superhero is in urgent need for a chance to escape from time to time, just to take a breath.
An elegant way to do so is the secret identity. Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Donald Duck – all normal billionaires, reporters and, oh, ducks. Inconspicuous Superheroes like you and me. Their unmasked identity is ultimately the same as the masked one. Nobody must know that one character is also the other character.
That’s where the mask enters the game by covering the face of the Alter Ego perfectly, so nobody has the slightest clue to see the same person in both Donald Duck and Superduck…
And vice versa, of course. You know Batman only with the mask. As soon as he takes the mask away – it’s Batman over!
By the way: Superman wears a mask, too! The difference is, he wears the mask along with his identity as Clark Kent. His mask is a a pair of nerd glasses, along with a disguise of a simple suit. Yes, simple, but very effective.
What is the Symbolic Identity?
Superheroes are individuals, too! And they are originals. There’s only one Superhero of it’s kind. (You see, two Batmen – that looks silly even to the word.) That’s why a Superhero’s costume is not a uniform, but a costume. It is an outfit.
His outfit embodies a Superhero’s values, what he identifies with, what characterizes him. On the one hand, it’s about functionality. Superman brought his dress, including family crest, as give-along from his parents on Krypton. The fabrics is indestructible on Earth. Makes sense. Batman’s robust, yet flexible outfit provides enough space for all these Bat-Gadgets. Makes sense.
Look and gear, as well as shapes and colors: everything is well in tune. And yet, it’s not only about some Corporate Identity that is related to the outer. The outfit represents the values of the Superhero. That way, our Superhero gets his Symbolic Identity. Thus, a bat stands for the fight against evil.
How to become a Superhero
Don’t let it sound like a platitude – but the truth is, you already are a Superhero. Congratulations!
Each of us is busy to keep things running, to bring in the money, to guide the old lady to the other side of the street, to listen, to carry the bags, to jump in and to make people happy. Nothing “batmanoid”, rather the tiny little things.
What if you didn’t do it? If no one in the worldwide neighborhood would do it? We don’t have to get philosophical here, but it’s easy to understand that the summary of all those little things and actions make the world a better place. Thus, our wonderful planet is blessed with literally billions of Superheros, one of which you are. High Five!
So, it just remains to be clarified how you want to handle your secret identity and your Symbolic Identity.
How to strengthen your Symbolic Identity
Let’s get this straight: chances are that you don’t need a secret identity. That’s because you’re playing in the same league that every Earth-citizen Superhero plays in. So, you don’t need to run from your identity in order to take a breath. A holiday, even in the garden, will do the job.
The more important is your Symbolic Identity. As we have seen before, your C.I. (or: your look) is part of your Symbolic Identity. Your values are another part. They determine whether your outfit has to look great at the first place, or the quality is as important as the look. Are you connected to the large brands or do you love insiders?
Why is this important? Easy: on the one hand, you act out all the more authentic and credible, the more your look fit your values, or in other words: the stronger your Symbolic Identity is.
Even more important: the stronger your Symbolic Identity, the better you feel yourself!
Strengthen your Symbolic Identity means strengthen your self-confidence. If you know exactly why you do (or do not) certain things; if you have an opinion of your own; if you know about your values; then every outfit that fits your Symbolic Identity will give you easily the great feeling of being a Superhero!
You will send this feeling to your environment, and they will receive. In other words: you will hardly prevent from looking good!
And that’s exactly why you should wear your mouth and nose mask which you have to wear these crazy days, as an important part of your outfit, your look, your style. Wear your mask with conviction! A good mask isn’t just a mask that fits well and does the job well. At the end, a good mask underlines your Symbolic Identity. It’s a mask that you love to wear. Even if you wouldn’t have to.
Part II: How to Find your perfect Mask
You have to be clear about your identity. Nobody can take this from you. In other easy words:
What kind of person are you?
Some people are taking their exterior very seriously and they spend big amounts of money on looking good. For example, this could be a fixation on certain brands. They want as less mainstream as possible.
Still, others don’t care at all, as long as everything is as cheap (or expensive) as possible. And then there are those who want (or don’t want) to stand out by any means.
However, There’s one thing that is clear by now: you prefer high quality. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. So, let’s jump right in and see what it takes for a mask to be a good mask!
What is the best fabric for a mask?
There are a bunch of claims made to a mouth and nose mask. One of them is the right fabric which the mask is made of. The fabric should provide the following properties:
- 60°C or even 95°C wash
- easy to iron
- comfortable to wear
- pollutants free and no chemical cleaning
At 95°C (referred to as ‘hot wash’) you already get a high degree of cleanliness and most of pests, bacteria and viruses are killed.
However, today a hot wash normally is made at 60°C. Using this temperature is sufficient for most purposes and saves a lot of energy. That’s why modern washing machines don’t even provide 95°C wash anymore.
The term ‘hot wash’ can be translated into German language as ‘cooking wash’. This is taken from the old times when Grandmother didn’t have a luxurious washing machine. Bedding and underwear were cooked in the truest sense of the word, using a large cooking pot on the stove. If you don’t have a washing machine that provides 95°C wash or if you only have some little peaces for hot wash, you can do it like Grandma did. Pour over the pieces with boiling water (which immediately cools down to 95°C) and let it work for a few minutes. That way, you can effectively disinfect your pieces. But you have to take a look before if your wash tolerates high temperature! You can get the information from the laundry sign.
If you can or want to wash using only 60°C, there’s another way to disinfect your mask. All you need to to is iron your wash. The heat of the iron has an disinfectant effect on the fabric, so the fabric is sterile at least for a short time.
So, the mask fabric not only should tolerate the iron, but also should be easy accessible with the iron.
To fit both criteria, mostly cotton and linen fabric are used.
However, linen is very iron sensitive. On the one hand, it needs to be ironed on the highest temperature. On the other hand, linen burns very fast which results in the infamous light or dark brown iron spots that cannot be washed away.
High-quality cotton fabric is ideal for a mask! Cotton comes in lots of variations, caused by different ways of processing. Thus, it’s very important to carefully choose the cotton fabric. You are wearing your mask directly in your face, so it has to be comfortable. The fabric should feel good.
You have the closest direct contact possible with the fabric, if it’s used to built a mouth and nose mask from. So, any pollutants or chemical cleanings (which strongly smell on some new products) are out of place!
Because it’s not only about the smell, but rather about you breathing through the fabric. On the other hand, your mask should provide some kind of filtering effect. You want the effect to be better than holding a scarf in front of your face.
That’s why a good mask provides several layers of fabric. To keep filtering effect and breathability in balance, normally two layers of fabric are perfect. That depends on the density of the fabric.
What do I have to consider at the fixation of the mask?
The fixation of the mask to the head seems to be unimportant. But it isn’t. To the contrary.
The fact is that both head and face provide much more setting options than just about the upper body that you want to find a suitable size for for your T-Shirt.
In order to fit perfectly all in all, your mask has to fit at a lot of spots. That is above all:
- nose (nose length)
- jaw and chin (small/big/narrow/wide/pointing outwards/pointing inwards)
- cheeks shape (important for wearing glasses and sunglasses)
- ear size and position on the head (rather up or down/rather front or back).
The latter has an effect on how the rubber band is guided and thus, how the mask is suited. In consequence, a specific mask that just doesn’t want to fit on your face seems to be the perfect mask for your buddy.
That’s why there isn’t just that perfect fixation. You gotta find out which fixation is the best for you!
There’s another detail of the fixation that you have to look after carefully. That is the bands that are used. Basically, a rubber band will be more comfortable than a non-elastic band. But the rule applies for both that they have to have the right thickness. A rather thick band can easily slip away from small ears or ears with grown earlobes. Or it can fold down the ear. Either way, this is unpleasant. However, a band that appears to be too thin may result in the feeling that the band cuts in your ear. Unpleasant, as well. The shape of the band is rather unimportant. A round rubber makes no difference in comfort to a flat tape, if thickness is chosen well.
What kinds of mask fixation are provided?
A simple fixation distinguishes mass products: there’s a rubber band sewn on each side of the mask that you pull behind the ear. That way, the mask is stuck to the face.
This solution may work well. Let’s call it Ear-Fixed.
Advantage: be careful that the rubber bands are not closed in a ring! You can fix the optimal size of the open rubber bands by simply knot them together at the right spot. This method may cause some fumbling in the beginning. But once fixed correctly, your Ear-Fixed mask will fit all the time. You don’t have to change anything again.
Disadvantages: if the rubber band is sewn on too closely, the only thing you can do is sew on another band that is long enough. Annoying fumbling, even worse if you can’t sew or don’t want to.
Also, it is difficult to just take the mask down for a moment. Because chances are that you don’t want to lay down the mask. Especially not in unknown places. So, you have to carry your mask in the hand which means that one hand is not free anymore.
This kind of fixation is copied from the operation masks that are used by surgeons. The bands are longer in order to lead them past the ears and knot them at the back of the head. So, this fixation doesn’t connect top edge and bottom edge of the same side, but each top edges and bottom edges.
Advantage: Be careful that rubber bands are used, not cords. In this case, you can get rid of the upper knot. The rubber band is just pulled through in one piece. If you wipe off the upper guide of the rubber band, the lower guide keeps the mask close to the body. That way you always have both hands free.
Disadvantages: If you have got a large volume of hair, a Neck-Fixed mask could be hard to handle and maybe doesn’t support your look that well.
Also, it can happen that a Neck-Fixed mask pushes relatively strong to the nose, if your nose is rather long. This may feel uncomfortable. Try it out.
What is the best mask shape (sewing pattern)?
There is no common answer for that. To correspond to the individual shapes of face and head, there are basically two ways:
- Different mask shapes (sewing patterns) focus on specific areas of the face where they normally fit well.
- A mask shape is provided in different sizes.
Theoretically there can be a huge selection on mask shapes – but this would be equal to a custom suited mask which would extremely turn up the price. Practically there are a few mask shapes that paid off to produce masks that fit for nearly every head. Sizes are reduced to subdivisions mostly in broad, sometimes in height, too. It doesn’t make sense to provide more than two or three sizes. If your mask doesn’t want to fit, it is better to switch mask shapes.
In the 420 Store you’ll find above all four mask shapes in at least two sizes. Voilà:
The Operation Mask shape (“BASIC”)
This is a classic. A simple rectangle shape that is unfoldable and that way adjustable to the height of your face. This mask is shipped with open rubber bands (Ear-Fixed) and available in two sizes. After washing the mask, you can reset the folds by ironing.
If you are not sure which mask shape does fit you best, the BASIC is a good entry!
The rectangle shape with a large area (“TANGLE”)
Basically, the TANGLE is a BASIC without the folds. On this model you can choose between Ear-Fixed and Neck-Fixed. So, the TANGLE is more flexible. You also can choose between two sizes.
Before you put on the TANGLE, you can gather it on both sides in order to adjust it well to the face.
Because there are no folds, the TANGLE is very easy to iron.
The Shape-Fitting Mask (“ENOMIC”)
This shape rather lies on the face than is placed in front of the face. It supports the three-dimensional shape of the face and has a different design than the other mask shapes. Two sizes are provided; all in all, this mask shape is a good choice for small faces. That’s why masks for children (approx. 5-11 years of age) correlate to the ENOMIC shape with certain modifications.
The Luxury Mask (“HILL”)
This is a further development of the TANGLE. Incorporated rubber bands take care of having the mask already gathered so the mask nestles perfectly on the face from the very beginning. Additionally, elements of the ENOMIC flow in in order to expand the adaptability with large noses.
The HILL is provided in two sizes.
The glasses fog up when the mask is worn. How can I prevent that?
As a user of glasses you should take a close look to the nose piece of the mask!
Unfortunately, the nose piece is often not thought through so it becomes useless. The nose piece should take care of a better fit of the mask at the first place, of course especially on the nose area. However, if the nose piece is too small and/or not heavy enough, it will slide around instead of stabilize the mask. You want to make sure that the nose piece fits properly around your nose shape to prevent it from sliding around.
If this doesn’t work, there will be a gap between the mask and your cheeks (especially with big noses). This has two disadvantages:
- the possibility of a better stabilization remains unused
- breathing air can pass through the gap. The result: your glasses (and your sunglasses) are fogged up!
If you wear glasses frequently, you know that there’s hardly anything more annoying than fogged up glasses. Even if you wear glasses (sunglasses) only occasionally, you will be annoyed by fogged up glasses. It is just too disturbing.
A good nose piece is an easy solution for both problems! First, it is long enough. So you can push it around your nose and onto your cheeks and it fits well. As a result, the masks fits better. Second, the nose piece is tight enough, so that the shape you set up remains stable. As a result, the breathing air can’t escape through the top edge of the mask, if your glasses sit on the mask. That way the glasses stay free from fogging up.
So, pay attention to a good nose piece. Often, it is declared just as a gimmick. But the truth is, it is an essential part of every good mask!
However, there is a special case: namely very small (narrow) glasses that don’t get in touch with the mask. So, the glasses don’t exert press pressure on the mask In this case it is possible that the nose piece does the opposite of what it’s supposed to to. If there’s some (warm) breathing air pressed out of the upper edge of the mask, it moves faster and reaches the glasses “accurately” before it can cool down properly. That way the glasses can get fogged up. Under these circumstances, it could be better to not press the nose piece tight onto your face. That way you don’t force the breathing air out with pressure which means that the air moves slower and doesn’t even reach the glasses.
How does the mask strengthen your Symbolic Identity?
Now that you know about the properties of a good mask, it’s time to take a big step further. Because now it’s about your look. See your mask as a hat or a suitable shoe or a watch. When putting together your outfit, you will focus on criteria that is important to you.
For example, you decide about the color that is supposed to dominate your outfit. When choosing your mask, you can either select one with a corresponding color, or grab one that provides a different color as an accent.
Mask shapes like the TANGLE provide space for lyrical or graphical design. Find the saying or the design that correlates to you. Doing so, it will be easy for you to wear your mask with pleasure!
Also, sharpen your eyes for your mask. Don’t see it as duty – see it as chance for leveling up your outfit! You won’t regret is. You will feel good. For sure.
And, who knows – maybe you become a trend setter?