Fashionable face masks will be as much of a wardrobe staple as shoes and handbags for the foreseeable future, style experts have said.
Novelty and “outlandish” clothing could also feature on the streets as the lockdown is eased, after a year which saw most people dressed down in comfortable loungewear at home.
Scientists have said some form of social distancing, including mask-wearing, may need to continue into 2022 even with effective vaccines, amid repeated warnings that the virus will not simply go away.
Celebrity stylist Nana Acheampong said bright and printed face coverings have become part of “a whole look” with many people keen for them to compliment an outfit.
She told the PA news agency: “We’ve already seen brands where you can get a face mask that is the same material, the same print as your dress so then it creates a whole look.
“I do think they are going to become a staple of our wardrobe. Especially when everything is back opened up again and you’re going out for dinner or to meet the girls, you will want your face mask to compliment your outfit.
“It becomes an accessory.”
The stylist, who has worked with the likes of Eva Longoria, Fearne Cotton and Ed Sheeran, added: “You’re going to think about it matching your outfit as much as you match your shoes to your dress, or your handbag to your dress.
“You’re going to want your face mask (to match) because you’re going to be pictured in it, and you’re not going to want to be pictured in a blue surgical one because that literally does nothing for you.”
She said she has a selection including plain black as it “goes really well with a lot of outfits”, alongside more funky designs.
She said: “I’ve got printed ones, for just if I’m feeling a bit more jazzy. I’ve got African print ones.
“If I’m in the mood I’ll put those ones on. I’ve got some tie dye ones as well so yeah there’s definitely a selection.”
The population is likely to be split in how they approach fashion as we emerge from lockdown, she predicted.
“I think 60% of people cannot wait to get dressed up again and get in heels and get in the glamour and then 40% of people obviously really relished the comfort and think ‘no, I’m going to take comfort over style’,” she said.
“Not that you can’t be stylish in loungewear because there’ve been some exceptional pieces.
“But I think the majority of people just can’t wait to get dressed up and be on a night out and really kind of embrace all of that that we’ve missed for the last year.”
Fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell said some people will be keen to go for novelty and more outlandish dressing, after 12 months in tracksuits.
She told PA: “Sales of loungewear really peaked last year and I think people have maybe got a bit bored of their traditional loungewear basics. I think by now they’re ready to engage in a bit of novelty dressing and have a bit more fun with their clothing.
“And I think now that we’re looking to hopefully exit the lockdown soon people will want to be taking that a step further.
“There are studies that show outlandish dressing and dressing out of the ordinary have been linked to escapism so I think people will really be wanting to tap into that and have some fun because we’ve been so restricted.”
Fashionable masks could help encourage people to stick to the rules, she added.
She said: “If people start thinking of it as an extension of their wardrobe I think definitely it will encourage people to wear it more.
“I think with anything if you make it fashionable, if you make it something that someone can use to express their identity or express themselves in a different way then it will of course be appealing. So I do think it’s a win-win situation.”