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Residents show off their mask fashion

Just a couple weeks ago, most Americans would have been hard-pressed to find a face mask in their household. Now, it has become a piece of critical equipment for going to the grocery store or out anywhere there are people and a risk of catching the coronavirus.

What started as simple white masks has quickly evolved to masks that show off a person’s personality even in the midst of the pandemic. Sports teams that have been sidelined by the pandemic are selling team-branded masks. NASCAR held its first race with real cars since March 8 this past Sunday, May 17. In the most NASCAR thing ever, teams were outfitted with face masks prominently featuring the sponsors of their cars.

Etsy, an e-commerce website focused on handmade items, is filled with all sorts of mask possibilities for the fashion-conscious. In a Vogue magazine article about fashionable masks, the company said between April 4 and 6, masks were searched on the website an average of nine times per second for a total of 2 million searches. There’s gingham masks and satin masks. There’s a mask that has the painting of “The Scream” featured on it, a creepy vampire face mask and even one that declares love for a pit bull.

Singer Billie Eilish got us started down this road to face mask fashion way back on Jan. 27 when she wore a Gucci face mask to the Grammy Awards ceremony. The 18-year-old singer has typically been ahead of her time.

The more recent mask fashion craziness started when our own Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine showed up at a Senate Health Committee hearing May 12 wearing a bandana over his face that made him look like a villain on the old western TV show “Gunsmoke.” Kaine looked like he had held up the stagecoach and taken the gold, or maybe he’s the one who guards Virginia’s potatoes. Twitter user and comedy writer Jason O. Gilbert tweeted, “If Tim Kaine dresses like this in 2016, Hillary wins 538-0.”

On the Republican side of the same hearing, safely social distancing from his home in Tennessee was Sen. Lamar Alexander. The 79-year-old retiring senator has been regularly seen sporting a red-and-black-checked flannel mask to match his famous flannel campaign shirts.

Fashionable masks can be seen around Farmville as well.

Sports Editor Titus Mohler found Rice resident Norma Rickmond wearing a superhero mask Tuesday, May 19, in Food Lion. She works as a residential manager at the Helton House in Rice. The mask came from her supervisor, Kris Drew, who made masks for all the workers there.

“He gave me this one, so I guess he thinks I’m a Superwoman,” Rickmond said.

She said she has been wearing the mask the whole pandemic in work and non-work situations.

John Hogan of Meherrin was wearing a green-and-blue patterned John Deere-branded mask while shopping at Food Lion — a perfect mask match for someone who works at James River Equipment.

“I have a close friend, she’s a seamstress, and she did them for me,” he said. “It’s kind of a way to keep it as enjoyable as you can.”

Sylvia Van Duyne was sporting a Mickey and Minnie Mouse mask. She said the homemade mask was given to her by her niece. She started the pandemic wearing a regular mask but switched to the homemade one last month.

As much as beer and sports are a part of American life, they are also part of our pandemic mask attire. Miles Sadler found the perfect mask for his job at Three Roads Brewing Company. His mask features several varieties of beer. Perhaps it serves as a type of menu, and customers can just choose a beer from his mask to order.

And then there’s football. Eric Jones was born and raised in Detroit. He came to Virginia because of the military but remains an avid Detroit Lions fan complete with a Lions mask.

“I had a friend make it for me, and I have another one on order with the vents,” he said. “And one of the things we did at my job, originally (someone) said, ‘Nah, no funky masks.’ I said, ‘Look, let them express themselves.’ I said, ‘You want everybody to wear the mask, let them express themselves.’ So I wear my Detroit Lions mask.”

As the pandemic goes on through 2020, our mask creativity will likely be at entirely new levels. Halloween could be just another day this year.

(Sports Editor Titus Mohler contributed to this article.)