Pandemic street style: Fashionable face masks worn by New Yorkers

Leave it to New Yorkers to make public safety look stylish. As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on into the summer, city dwellers are using face coverings as a way to flaunt individual fashion sense.

And why not? Even Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, encouraged citizens to see their masks more like accessories. “Masks can be a fashion statement,” she said in a press conference last week.

Here, The Post takes to the streets to find out who’s playing hide-and-chic.

Whitney Garofalo, 23

The Fashion Institute of Technology grad said she was drawn to this fabric for its resemblance to the iconic Burberry print. But thanks to an industrious mask-sewing friend, she got the look without the luxury-label price. “I’m just trying to support someone who is trying to find a new hobby during quarantine,” she said. 

Danielle Melendez, 24, with her cat, Peaches

“Mine’s pretty ironic,” said model and actress Melendez, of the floral mask she picked up at a dollar store while visiting her mother in Queens. “I’m allergic to flowers … I can’t smell or touch them.” 

Shadi Jurdi, 31

Jurdi said that his growing collection of bold-print masks is a sign of his commitment to style. “All of my masks are a little bit expressive and have quirky prints or patterns,” he said, adding that he got this vintage cow print one from a friend’s secondhand shop, the Consistency Project. “I don’t get to dress up and go out like I used to,” said Jurdi, a senior editor at Etsy. “So that’s one way to be expressive during this weird time.”

Delaney, 21

A waitress from the East Village, Delaney, who declined to give her last name, bought her witchy mask from an Etsy store called Make America Goth Again, which she discovered while mindlessly surfing the web during quarantine. “Self-expression has always been very important to me,” she said. “I definitely went for fashion and trend over breathability, though.”

Caroline Berti, 35

Berti — an NYC-based sustainable fashion designer — wanted her pink sequin mask to have flair and function, so it’s lined for extra protection. She said she enjoyed wearing items, including her handmade slime-green-and-yellow coat, that could “inspire people, or make their day a little brighter. There’s a lot of gloom and doom still happening, so it’s nice to be able to bring a little fashion back.”

Javier Hernandez, 28

Hernandez said he hunted for a face covering that wouldn’t get old. “I wanted something to amuse myself when I wore it,” he said of his devilish sugar-skull mask. 

Liz Elder, 26

“Given that I have to wear a mask, I wanted it to be more happy and colorful,” said Elder. She turned to Rhode — a brand known for its splashy prints — for some eye-catching options. She said there’s only one problem with her bold face coverings: “They don’t always go with my outfits.”

Luis Crespo, 45

Bronx native Crespo is a Drake fan, and he loved this sleek spin on the title of the rapper’s 2015 mixtape, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.” Crespo isn’t the only one who likes the look: He said he receives many compliments from strangers. 

Mike Spitz, 37

The owner of Mr. Throwback, a vintage store specializing in retro sports apparel on the Lower East Side, Spitz said that the key to good customer service is a smile. With his cheerful yellow mask, he said he can keep up appearances as a “smiley, happy guy … I do believe that if you have a smile on your face, anyone walking in the store feels very welcome,” he said.

Miriam Leuchter, 56

Leuchter said her “I Love Your Lungs” mask, designed by her friend and cartoonist Kriota Willberg, reflects her values. “Wearing your mask isn’t so much about protecting yourself as it is about protecting other people,” Leuchter, who runs a nonprofit, said. “It’s really a sign of consideration and care for others and a sign of love for other people.”

Pat O’Connell, 63

A musician, adjunct professor and small-business owner, O’Connell said he didn’t have to go far to find his guitar-patterned scarf, which he wears like a bandana: He already had it in his closet.

Sara Booth, 32

East Village resident and hair colorist Booth said this high-contrast, subway-themed mask stood out to her for a few reasons: “I like the rainbow because it represents LGBTQ [people] … And the MetroCard I thought was a cute New York icon.”

Stephen Lovekin, 50

Lovekin used his daughter’s fabric markers to design this mask, an ode to beloved band the Rolling Stones. At first, he was sporting the plain white cotton version, but decided to decorate it himself after his wife commented that “‘it kind of looks like underwear.’ I got a little self-conscious,” he said. 

Tammi Clayton, 49

Washington Heights resident Clayton bought this simple, embroidered scarf from Etsy, and said tying it like a bandana solved a problem she had with more fitted face coverings. “The reason why I wear it is because my face is sort of small, and I had a hard time with every other mask I bought,” the actress said. 

Tony Uphoff, 60

Uphoff, a web executive and Upper West Sider, said he received this no-nonsense mask in the mail from his daughter, who lives in California. He said New Yorkers should be “proud” of how they handled the pandemic, but they shouldn’t let their guard down: “I want to encourage people to stick with the program and trust the process.”

Whitney Blackmon, 29

Model Blackmon said this mask, with its modern, dahlia-like print, was created just for her by her aunt Crystal, a seamstress. “She made face masks for all of her nieces and nephews based on their personalities,” Blackmon said.

Emmanuel Woode, 60

The taxi driver from The Bronx sports an abstract black-and-white design.

Katelyn Faulks, 26

Don’t worry, be happy: User-experience researcher Faulks gives off good vibes in a mask splashed with smilies.

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