The media has spoken:
- Is this the “future of beach wear?”
- Was it inspired by “The Blue Man Group?”
- It looks like something a lucha libre wrestler or “Somali pirates” would wear
This bizarre face mask has been dubbed the “facekini.” Though it’s nothing new, it’s now made its way from the beaches of China to the pages of a reputable fashion magazine.
It’s not quite clear how long the “facekini” has been around. The Guardian reported the nylon facemask was first spotted about five years ago on a beach in China, but the mask became more widely known in 2012. Primarily used to protect the face and neck from the harmful rays of the sun, your standard mask can be bought at a swim shops in China for $2 to $4. Fancier masks can be bought online for $16-24, according to the Independent. Facekinis respond to the growing number of skin cancer cases — but in China, where skin color is a “symbol of economic and social status,” cancer is not the only factor.
Time magazine wrote: “Pale skin is prized in China — so much so that the slang term for an attractive woman is bai fu mei, or fair, rich, beautiful.” Yao Wenhua, 58, a retired bus driver and mask wearer, said in a 2012 New York Times article: “I’m afraid of getting dark…A woman should always have fair skin…Otherwise people will think you’re a peasant.”
Other uses for the mask:
- Time Magazine reported that the mask’s 58-year-old creator, Zhang Shifan, also made the mask for protection from jelly fish.
- The National Post reported the mask was created to “protect against the nipping of sea crabs.”
- In 2012 CNN travel reported online vendors are also marketing the masks as shark repellent. As one vendor explained, bright orange masks can help drive away sharks “because they fear this color the most.”
In 2012, CNN Travel reported the masks have been around for about five years — but now they’re high fashion.
CR Fashion Book, a biannual fashion magazine and brainchild of former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Carine Roitfel, featured masked models wearing “facekinis” in a photo shoot titled “Masking in the Sun.” The August issue displayed them alongside swimwear and jewelry by top designers such as Alexander Wang and Michael Kors. “Our latest summer story represents an opposing ideal of beauty altogether, with masked poolside models set out to soak up as little sun as possible,” the magazine wrote. Even further:
While our summer beauty routines are devoted to bronzing, self-tanning, and tan-extending, in Asia, beauty-seekers are more likely to center theirs around lightening and brightening. A tan does not signify a chic trip to Capri, but it could mean hours of hard labor spent out in the harsh sun. Our last swimwear story of the season blends all of the glamour of a Helmut Newton-esque pool party with the idea that a deep tan is the enemy. As it is said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. These beautiful eyes are peering from behind a mask—still enjoying summer, but avoiding a summer glow at all costs.”
The facekini will not likely become a trend in the states. Americans love tans — think Jersey Shore, John Boehner and, most recently, Matthew McConaughey — but maybe the masks will be in the next “Spring Breakers” movie.