This isn’t another essay on masks.
This is another essay on pandemic innovation.
BC (Before Coronavirus), regular mask use to prevent the spread of illness and keep pollution out of our delicate lungs was commonplace in East Asian countries. By 2013, face masks became a fashion statement. Masks that represented the styles of kawaii, Gyaru, Fairy Kei, Lolita, Harajuku, and even smog couture entered mainstream streetwear in Japan, China, and South Korea, and through online communities.
Quickly, trendy alternative westerners adopted mask fashion. Many were directly inspired by Asian streetwear like Ariana Grande who’s worn face masks since 2017, those into pastel goth, kawaii, and/or Lolita fashion, and those on TikTok and Instagram. While they could be placed in the streetwear category, they appear to have been following the trend for the trend, not directly because of its roots. These three subsets are in no way indicative of all influences nor are they definitive as the subsets seem to reference one another as time goes by.
As the need for masks has continued past spring, we’ve seen more people splurge on reusable masks that reflect their personality or style. And that’s fantastic. Who wouldn’t want to feed two birds from one hand?
But, like I said earlier, this essay isn’t about face masks. It’s about pandemic culture.
Similar to how face masks were already on trend before the coronavirus, fog was already an issue for those who wear glasses and the necessity of sanitizing hands and surfaces was previously known. But, before March, their urgency (and relatability) had been relatively ignored.
To some degree, people who wear glasses have always had to deal with fog. And, over the decades there have been wipes and sprays and special lenses all to combat fog. Despite 75% of adults wearing some sort of corrective lenses, it’s remained a relatively niche market resigned to the ‘As Seen on TV’ shelf at stores. That is until the coronavirus. In just a few short months, publications from AARP to the Insider to the Wall Street Journal have been covering the topic and solutions. It’s clear to see why. Because of face masks foggy glasses went from a minor inconvenience to an all day dread for most.
Likewise, the germ harboring surfaces of a phone or a public restroom door handle have been a frequent topic of interest discussed in articles and talk show segments over the years. But, beyond bringing a tube of hand sanitizer or a disinfectant wipe, these have been nothing more than awareness campaigns. Until, a few months ago.
Yes, even during the pandemic they’ve been mostly hygiene awareness ads. But, there have also been new products and concepts coming out that challenge the coronavirus, prevent its woes, and touch upon the innovation that is to come.
Stoggles — what started this essay — claims to be an anti-fog, pandemic proof pair of glasses that prevent mask fog and reduce the likelihood of touching ones eyes through side panelling. And Phone Soap — a UV box one places their phone inside of to kill bacteria.
These seem like small solutions. They are.
In no terms are these ‘big apples’ that’ll solve the pandemic or win a Nobel Peace prize.
But, they are innovations. And they are the results of our new pandemic culture. A culture that despite anxiety, financial instability, and setbacks is still working towards finding the solutions for everyday problems. And who knows, maybe what was holding back a scientist on the team researching a coronavirus vaccine was foggy glasses.