Covid Couture
May 18, 2020 6:33 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a good, practical well made mask for all-day use.

When the pandemic resulted in stay-at-home being implemented in my state, like many people I felt kind of stressed and had no clue how to utilize a mask. Now I feel like a trooper in that I wear one all day at work and when out in public places. I've gone from being really feeling ill at ease with mask wear to it being normal to do so.

There doesn't seem to be a variety of well-made masks available. I bought a couple on Etsy to start, pleated cloth with a couple of stretchy ear loops. Not really worth the $ but better than nothing. They don't really fit and are perhaps more safety theatre than practical tools.

I've just purchased two more masks which at least have the attributes of having adjustable ear loops, washable insertable media, a bendable nose bridge, and so forth.

Is there a mask design or company that is really nailing this need? You would think there would be an outpouring of creative effort around this but I'm either not seeing it or looking in the wrong places.

I found this link when I did a search for 'covid couture'. It was interesting but I'm not really interested in masks as fashion so much as practical, well-made systems designed to do the job they are supposed to be doing without falling down, being too small, not fitting properly, being cheaply made and so forth.
posted by diode to Technology (15 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
First, you should be aware up-front that any mask that doesn't fit right to your face (i.e., any cloth mask!) is not going to be super-protective. There is some benefit to you, but the main goal is to control your own shedding while it's still in fairly large "format." It sounds like maybe you might be hoping for more than you can get without an N95.

That said, my Tom Bihn masks are holding up reasonably well. Bendable nose bridge, no filter pocket, ear loops that are elastic enough to fit well but very comfortable. Two sizes (again, with a soft mask, fit is going to be mostly a function of facial geography compatibility with the mask--it'd be quite hard to get a tight fit with a soft fabric without a crazy tight elastic, though maybe someone knows of some weirdo high-end high-tech fabric).

Hedley & Bennett sells masks with filter pockets. I have one on order, haven't seen it yet. No nose bridge.

Rickshaw Bags sells masks without filter pockets, but with three sizes, so perhaps you could find a better fit there?

The Maine Stitching masks I have use an elastic along the top ridge to create a tighter fit to the face there. It does seem like less air is escaping there but it is also much less comfortable.
posted by praemunire at 7:10 PM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've ordered a whole bunch of masks, and the one from Aplat which arrived today has a good chance of becoming my favorite. No metal nose bridge, but the strap setup seems ideal for a tight fit. The Tom Bihn one is well-made, but was way too small for my face.
posted by neroli at 7:27 PM on May 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

I think it really depends on your face/head. As it's not possible to try them on in advance, I'm not sure how to get around that, without buying a bunch, to see which works best for your face/head. It's not ideal. I've found the Tom Bihn ones fit me the best, but with 65% polyester, they're too hot to wear. I hate the Hedley & Bennett ones that I got. There's something about the chin that makes the nose fall down? But maybe you have a different chin :)
posted by unknowncommand at 7:33 PM on May 18, 2020

JCRT is making some interesting pieces. They have a liner, an inside pocket, and a tunnel along the nose for your own length of pipe cleaner or wire.
posted by bcwinters at 7:35 PM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Maybe these? $70/mask + $8/a box of five filters, each of which can last up to 2 weeks. (Plus I think the mask might come with a couple?)
posted by slidell at 7:44 PM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I like my Tom Bihn ones, but I want to get enough to not have to wash during the workweek, so I'm watching this thread with interest.
posted by hollyholly at 8:31 PM on May 18, 2020

Sock Fancy! The shipping takes awhile, but most comfy masks I've used so far.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:37 PM on May 18, 2020

I find the Los Angeles Apparel ones to be as comfortable as a mask could be, I think. The company is run by the guy who made American Apparel, so he certainly knows comfortable clothes.
posted by radioamy at 10:47 PM on May 18, 2020

I've got a fair number of different masks (most, admittedly, chosen on the basis of looks) and the most comfortable and best-wearing so far are the ones from Ghost Circus. Do be aware-- they've got a range of styles, not all of which have filter pockets or nose-wires, and some have a fleece layer, which can trap a lot of heat.

The company has pretty tight cycles of selling out and restocking (and listings for sold out items are pulled down pretty quickly) so if you don't see something there right now that checks all your boxes, it's still worth keeping an eye on the site.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:34 AM on May 19, 2020

I can't say what the fit is for these, but they caught my eye as both casual chic and they have a 3-dimensional pattern that looks like it could be well fitting: Rag and Bone
posted by nanook at 6:00 AM on May 19, 2020

Response by poster: I'm sure some of these masks are really good or better than what I'm doing now. I'm aware of the tradeoffs involved in standard masks versus N95 masks. From what I've read, if you're not a medical professional using advanced hygiene protocols, you're probably not going to prevent getting the virus if you are exposed by using a mask. Standard mask wear is to protect people around you if you are asymptomatic.

It seems to me like a mask system should have memory wire around the outside edges with closed-cell foam to promote a tighter, softer seal. Shape to fit. Some kind of ribbing to keep the mask off your face. A valve to pull in air, a medium to filter out breaths that can be reused and cleaned. Perhaps a tympanic membrane to allow your speech to be more easily heard. Some form of velcro closure or adjustable soft strap. Okay, off to Kickstarter.
posted by diode at 7:42 AM on May 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have these out for delivery from Proper Cloth and am excited about them. Filter pocket, adjustable nose piece and over-the-head elastic. I have the Tom Bihn ones and even the large pulls on my ears too much.
posted by mcgsa at 8:30 AM on May 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

maybe you might like a Respro mask (I linked the foggy, but they have lots of styles.) Their store is currently closed due to being sold out I think, but if you're able to locate one somewhere they're good masks.
posted by euphoria066 at 10:26 AM on May 19, 2020

I just went ahead and ordered a set of the Proper Cloth ones too, thanks mcgsa!

I have a gifted ear loop mask and I can’t deal with it for more than about ten minutes max. The masks I ordered from Maine Stitching are more comfortable, with elastic that goes around my head, but they are already seriously fraying. And I don’t love how they look (though I was so glad to be able to get them for fast and cheap as the whole mask thing was starting). I watched a friend struggle and tie and retie and retie an around-the-head mask that wouldn’t stop slipping off her nose as we were walking and talking, and that makes me not want to deal with ties.

Holding out for elastic around the head rules out a surprising number of options! I’m hopeful about the Proper Cloth ones. They’re a lot more expensive but I’ll need some decent option cause I have a feeling we’re going back to the classrooms with masks in September.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:23 AM on May 22, 2020

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