One Billion Masks

In a recent article I stated that attitude was the difference between thriving and struggling in these strange times, because the right attitude opens your mind to opportunities. A few weeks ago, I posted on social media that anyone who could sew would be well advised to start making and marketing unique and interesting masks because that market was growing rapidly.

At the time of writing, the best indications are that, when the quarantines end, there will be voluntary or mandatory requirements to wear a mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in most of the country. This means that 330,000,000 Americans are going to need masks. More than that, it means that 330,000,000 Americans will have a new opportunity to express themselves in an entirely new fashion platform.

The market for socks and specialty ties shows us that people want a way to express themselves while still maintaining a professional appearance. Specialty ties with everything from spaceships to religious imagery to Nicolas Cage’s face are considered acceptable business attire because the social norm of wearing a tie for business was laid down before print technology made low volume, low cost cloth printing widely available. Technology came around, and our already relaxing fashion standards shrugged its shoulders and said, “okay, sure.”

Masks are new to our culture, so there are no rules. It is wide open fashion territory. As people wise up to this, they will eagerly start buying up this new fashion accessory.

How big is this market? Let’s do some math. There’s about 330,000,000 people in America. Let’s say that on average, everyone will buy three masks. Some will get zero or one while others will get dozens, so three seems a fair average. That’s a billion masks. Online, masks are going for between $5 and $20 generally, but the $5 are mostly 4 for $20, so $10 is a reasonable average.

That’s $10,000,000,000 that people will spend on masks, mostly in the next three months. Of course, this will taper off over time. Eventually Covid-19 will pass, but we will likely adopt the Asian standard of wearing a mask whenever we don’t feel well. People concerned about surveillance will still wear them, since the stigma will have passed.

They might even stick around because of the pure fashion value. Think of a scene like a nightclub. A lot of people crowded into a room yelling to be heard over the music and perhaps inadvertently throwing a little mouth spray. A simple neck gaiter is relatively comfortable and doesn’t garble speech too much. If you’re looking for a way to stand out in a crowded, dark room, putting some removable art on your face is a pretty good way to do it.

Every Tuesday at 5:30, I host a Zoom roundtable called Opportunities in Obstacles all about finding opportunities in our current troubles. This mask trend is exactly what I’m talking about. There are opportunities for selling your products. There are opportunities to market your business. There are opportunities spread your agenda.

Anything you could put on a t-shirt can go on a mask, but everyone will be wearing masks. They are relatively cheap, portable, and easy to change out. There’s no reason you couldn’t wear one to work, then another when you go out to lunch, another when you meet a client, and a fourth when you go out after. You’ve got a wear one anyway, might as well wear a cool one.

If you have visual intellectual property that would work well on a t-shirt, then you should be putting on a mask, and you should be getting it online for sale right now. If you’re business makes apparel and you’re idle right now, this is definitely a space to be in.

While we’re at it, if your company has fans who would wear your gear, are you making Zoom backgrounds for your fans to use? Free to distribute, and almost as many people are using Zoom as are using masks right now.

I’d like to hear what you’re doing. Share in the comments how you might put this new mask trend to work for your business, organization, or personal use. How about Zoom backgrounds, what are you doing with those?


Important Note
I’ve gotten some feedback on this article that is important to clear up. There are two kinds of masks: those that prevent transmission and those that prevent contraction of disease. It takes a more advanced mask worn by a trained user who follows various protocols to protect the person wearing the mask. The fashion masks do¬†not¬†protect the wearer. They protect everyone around the wearer. Their purpose is that, should one be an asymptomatic carrier, they will not accidentally spray virus droplets around as they speak and breathe. This is an entirely different conversation from that of PPE, but this kind of mask is vital for reducing transmission.


Michael Whitehouse is a local publisher and consultant in Southeast Connecticut. He brings people together with his work with Best Version Media, wrote the book The Guy Who Knows A Guy on networking, and works with businesses to help them adapt to changing times.

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