In the six months that have passed since the pandemic took hold, face masks have become part of our everyday lives.
At first, there was a shortage, as people scrambled to get their hands on the one thing that would ensure they could leave the house during the height of lockdown. Then came the inflation, as online retailers started to triple the cost of these sudden new essentials. And then, as we settled into this new way of life, came the accessorising.
For something we need to wear day in, day out, people naturally wanted a chicer (and more sustainable) option than the standard blue medical mask, and so began the rise of the fashion face mask.
So far, we've seen statement masks, stars matching their masks to their dresses on the red carpet, and even masks with a photograph of the bottom of your face printed on it to give the illusion that you are not wearing one at all. There have been questions over how efficient these are at protecting you when compared with a medical-grade mask, but they do, at least, cover the nose and mouth.
But when Lana Del Rey stepped out over the weekend to meet fans with what was essentially a metallic net covering her lower face, it was clear things had gone too far.
The singer announced an impromptu book signing at Barnes & Nobel in Los Angeles on her Instagram page while wearing a bejewelled, mesh mask. Which is fine, if you are going to stay behind the Instagram camera. But if you are going to also wear it to a meet and greet with dozens of fans, well, then you may as well not wear it at all.
Of course, there was backlash. "I love you sis but please wear a real mask, it gives a bad message," one fan wrote under Del Rey's Instagram video.
“Love you love you love you so much but please wear a mask under that one, take care," another wrote.
Some were quick to jump to jump to the Video Games singer's defence, claiming that there was in fact a clear layer of material beneath the mesh, but even if that was the case, it hardly seems enough.
The advice from medical professionals is clear: masks save lives. By wearing one, you are not only protecting yourself, you are protecting those around you. And if you are going to actively encourage people to come out of their homes to meet you, the least you can do is ensure you are being responsible when they get there.
It is advised masks have at least two layers of material, three if you want to ensure they are medical grade, and if you are going to go down the reusable route, it is essential that they can be easily washed. Characteristics which, let’s face it, don’t spring to mind when looking at something mesh and bejewelled.
Grabbing your mask before you leave the house has become as normal as grabbing your purse or slipping on your shoes, so perhaps you have started to think of it more as part of your outfit, rather than an essential health barrier. But that is what it is, first and foremost. With cases going up around the world, this is hardly the time to be letting our standards (or masks) slip.