If a mask is like underwear for your face, why settle for something rough, cheap, and boring?
Last week Uniqlo jumped into the mask-making business when it expanded its Airism apparel line to include the now-ubiquitous facial coverings. But at the same time as people were lining up to get their hands on masks from Japan’s most popular affordable clothing chain, a new shop was opening in Tokyo selling nothing but high-end, high-fashion masks.
June 18 was opening day for two branches of Mask Wear Tokyo, one in Tokyo’s Shibuya district and the other in Shinjuku. Our ace reporter Mr. Sato stopped by the Shibuya location, which is found inside the Shibuya 109 shopping tower, one of the premier starting points for fashion trends in Japan.
Sure enough, Mask Wear Tokyo doesn’t look anything like the no-nonsense drug stores where we usually buy our masks. Instead, it has the atmosphere of a fancy eyeglass boutique, with an array of mannequin heads modeling a selection of the roughly 100 different designs Mask Wear Tokyo offers.
With masks having become a constant part of many people’s wardrobes these days, even when inside, it’s nice to be able to see what a mask looks like when it’s actually being worn, not just folded flat while tucked inside a box or wrapper. In addition to being stylish, the masks are made with high-quality materials, with silk lining being a major benefit over throw-away paper varieties.
After looking over the selection, Mr. Sato picked out two designs: the deep green Tora/Tiger, and the cosmopolitan Somewhere in Tokyo. Somewhere in Tokyo gives off a sophisticated feel with its view of the Tokyo skyline. Right in the middle stands the towering NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building, flanked by several other skyscrapers to stir the wanderlust of urban explorers.
Tora/Tiger, meanwhile, radiates a cool confidence, and before you’re tempted to make a wisecrack about its name being redundant (tora is the Japanese word for “tiger,” after all), bear in mind that they are, in fact, two jungle cats on the mask.
Some of the other designs Mr. Sato could have chosen: Virgin Summer, Dawn at Fuji, Night in Tokyo, Oiran, Kumo (“Cloud”), and Natsu to Ikiru (“Living in Summer”)
Unlike with many other high-fashion items, Mr. Sato’s classy masks aren’t a case of sacrificing comfort for appearance, as their silk linings are smoother and cooler than ordinary masks. They even come in a special box, to make them feel extra-special.
Finally, we come to the only drawback: the price. The Somewhere in Tokyo mask set Mr Sato back 3,000 yen (US$28), while the Tora/Tiger was pricier still, at 3,300 yen. So the question becomes “Are they worth it?”
In Mr. Sato’s mind, yes. “In my opinion, a mask is like underwear, but for your face. So often, we choose dull, disposable masks, but really, isn’t there also a time and place for a luxurious, expressive mask?”
To carry on the metaphor, if a simple paper mask is like a utilitarian pair of tighty whiteys, then Mask Wear Tokyo’s are like silk boxer shorts that you slip into when you want a boost of comfort and confidence on days when you’ve got an important meeting or hot date (or maybe an evening at a veiled hostess club planned)
If you’d like to follow in Mr. Sato’s facial fashion footsteps, be aware that Mask wear Tokyo’s physical locations will only be open until June 28, but sales will continue through the company’s online store here.
Mask Wear Tokyo
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya, Dogenzaka 2-29-1, Shibuya 109 8th floor
東京都渋谷区道玄坂2丁目29-1 渋谷109 8階
Open 11 a.m.-7 p.m.