Masks are Facial Signage  

by | Aug 4, 2020 | Articles for Both

Just about overnight there are now over 1.7 million Google results for “facemasks and business attire”.

Face masks now seem to come in all types of designs with the option to wear everything from your mood du’jour to your favorite meme on your face with even less regard than used to select a band tee shirt from the bin in the closet.

Companies such as, one of many (many) companies that are capitalizing (and I don’t mean that in a bad way – often companies donate a portion of mask proceeds to COVID research) on the new and growing trend of wearing masks.

I’m not EVEN touching that the wearing of face masks in America has become hotly politicized. However, I will point out that now that it’s easy to state your political beliefs right on your face instead of being (slightly) limited to your more like minded Facebook or Instagram followers.  And these statements, graphics and images now go with you everywhere from the grocery store to the deli for lunch.  And they don’t care who is watching.

As an image professional AND a tenured J.Hilburn sales person I KNOW that the see-like-trust connection between people especially in a new business setting is so sensitive.  Every single aspect of our appearance makes up the whole of the opinion others form of us in the first few seconds of meeting us.  Small, seemingly insignificant statements such as simple brand logo on a dress shirt or the recognizable pattern of a designer handbag can create a perception – sometimes positive… sometimes negative but rarely neutral.

Even if you don’t work “in sales” you are always “selling”.  In any job there are always going to be people you need to be positively influencing or selling to;  it may be planting the idea in the Office Manager’s head that you are worth a raise or getting a green light to make that big pitch to the Executive Team.

Please don’t make the following mask mistakes:

  1.  Look less than serious about your work.  Aka comical or goofy.
  2. Think that mask humor is understood and appreciated by all who view it.
  3.  State personal beliefs graphically on your face.
  4.  Stray into hot topic issues like politics, religion and the like.

If you are “young” graphics, cartoons and words on your mask makes you look younger.

If you are “old” they make you look like you missed the memo of your age.

Understand: Masks are facial signage.

Kitts is the owner of Real Thread, a screen-printing shop based in Orlando, Florida, as quoted in this SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) article.

“It’s not only logos, but even motivational slogans or a quote on the mask just to add a little flair,” said Kitts. “Now that masks are becoming a normal thing, you need to mix it up, or it would be like wearing the same blouse or T-shirt every day.”

I respectfully disagree.  If I was advising you on increasing your sales success, your competency rating, or your executive presence in ANY capacity I would coach that your mask is not something you want others to focus on or remember as notable.

So, what DO you wear?

Wearing a medical mask is what we all did in the beginning of this thing, and yes, that is still acceptable, but there are better, more sophisticated options available now.

Choose elegance and simplicity in your mask choice.  Here is an option from J.Hilburn made out of their beautiful shirting fabric.  Yes, there is a small brand logo but it’s discretely to the side. Comes in mens sizes and womens and multiple but easy to pair with work wear fabrics. My favorite choice.

J.Crew sells a non-tech mask set in “banker blue” stripe, gingham and a solid. Nordstrom does a simple, solid pleated mask but its not tech.   Land’s End has a variety of solid, reusable masks in stock.

So in conclusion, if you work in sales, law, or any financial capacity I really, really would keep what’s on your face in a business setting classic, simple and UNmemorable.

When can you wear fun masks?

If you work in a very casual office, with a relaxed, creative Millennial-ish crowd you likely can afford to add some “flair” to your masks, so go ahead and have a chuckle showing off your Hide the Pain Harold mask.

And of course, when you are off duty.  Just remember that it’s a small world, and you will bump into work people, colleagues, management or clients when you least expect it. So for this reason, allow yourself some latitude on the silly, and much less on more sensitive matters.

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