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As Pandemic Continues, Some Choose To Wear Masks That Are Stylish Too

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

It's a fact. Face masks can reduce the spread of coronavirus, but there's no reason we can't look good in them. The need for this new accessory has unleashed a wave of creativity. Take entrepreneur Ryan Glen's handmade cloth du jour, which features...

RYAN GLEN: A bunch of, like, diamonds and rhinestones on a piece of material that shine very sparkly and in the sunlight.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Glen has already sold thousands of these bedazzled masks on Etsy. In fact, the Internet is filled with these unique pieces. Social media is where you'll also find influencers wearing name brands. Think Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Even printing companies are getting into the game. Vista Print is collaborating with artists to design new masks and sending out press releases that ask, are face masks the next sneakers?

But at Ridgewood Middle School in West Lafayette, Ohio, Principal Bryan Raach is creating face masks to make students more secure during these scary times. His fabulous designs, photos of his own face from nose to chin printed onto cloth.

BRYAN RAACH: I make three masks with different facial expressions. I was smiling in one. The second mask is going to have a hand on my chin just kind of like I'm sitting there thinking trying to figure out what's going on. And then one with kind of more of a stern face.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Raach says he works with students with different types of trauma. So by showing his face or at least a picture of it...

RAACH: There's a huge safety comfort component that's designed specifically for our kids to come to school and be as safe, as comfortable as they could be.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But for some people, comfort is not the point.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: A pandemic is no time to be modest for at least one person who commissioned a very expensive piece of protective gear.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: An unnamed Chinese buyer will be wearing an 18-karat white gold face mask set with more than 3,000 diamonds. That buyer paid $1.5 million to an Israeli jeweler for a face full of bling. It is definitely a conversation piece, but you don't have to spend millions to be creative. Our Etsy designer Ryan Glen says a fashionable mask is about making you and other people feel good.

GLEN: That stands out as high energy and make people smile while - even though we may not be able to see it, under that mat.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Glen says there is one way people can tell if you're smiling.

GLEN: Yeah, the smize, right. You can use your eyes to smile.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Smize or smizing, popularized by model Tyra Banks. Pair it with a hair flip and you have a certified runway look.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL")

TYRA BANKS: ...And whip and keep moving and smizing and smizing and a whip.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So whatever mask you're wearing, make it safe. Make it fashion. And don't forget to smile.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL")

BANKS: Smize and smize and... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.