I wear a mask in public for the safety of me and my community and not just because I have been “normalized” to it by being an Asian American who visits my family in Korea. I started wearing the neck gaiter style face masks in the winter while riding my bike around town to cut the wind chill and look like a ninja. Having grown up in Florida I never quite adjusted to the cold so as soon as it’s under 75 degrees I am in a hoodie. When the current pandemic hit the US I was ready with face covering for my bi-weekly grocery store visit, but now that the country has starting to open up a bit I decided it was time I got some face masks with some filtering capacity that weren’t in the disposable surgical/construction type. (I also want to make sure that our front-line workers have all the PPE available to them). I’m an artisan and I wanted a little style and flair to my face coverings like the neck gaiters I was accustomed to wearing. So I did what was easiest, looked online… and that is quite a minefield of boring styles and reviews that didn’t satisfy my curiosity enough by spending or throwing away my money on products that I may not like or don’t fit. So I decided to try my local retail mask sellers and help the local economy as well. Let me be clear I’m not buying masks so I can go to bars, restaurants, movie theater, or live performances. I still believe that if you can stay home and help keep the current spike in COVID-19 cases to a minimum, I urge you to do that. With style and substance in mind last week I hopped on my bike and hit up three retail locations on the east side of the Willamette to purchase my latest fashion/life-saving accessory.

Stark’s Vaccum on SE Stark and 84th. They cost $12.50 had 2 colorways, black and white, and with the white looking like a surgical mask I went with black. I like that there is an extra bit of fabric to cover the nose but was a little disappointed that it was manufactured outside of the US. It fits a little snug but all over-ear holding masks are a little snug on my big head.

Flipside Hats on Belmont and 45th. They cost about $22 and come in two sizes (child and adult) and many colors. They are manufactured in Oregon by u r ♥’d. I bought a houndstooth pattern and solid yellow. While I was there, I also picked up a hat. Their retail store is small, and they don’t allow anyone in the store, so they keep their door open as a walk-up window. It made for some miscommunications pointing and asking for the mask, “two over to YOUR left and one row down!”

Fantasy Hollywood on NE Sandy and 31st. While an adult store may be the last place you go to buy a facemask, they boast a large collection of clothing… and not all of it is lingerie. They cost $20 and had 4 designs and were located at the counter so for the more squeamish retail shopper (over 18) your experience can be done in a few moments without too much distraction. These masks were manufactured in the US and of the three, these are the smallest and have a ‘cheap panties’ feel to them.

This was a fun exercise (and by riding my bike to these shops, it was also literal exercise). I was able to have the adventure to find a stylish and life-saving fashion accessory and help support a few local businesses. I have been researching more places in town to buy masks and will keep you posted as to what I find. When the stay at home order was given, I decided to grow a quarantine beard and mustache. I have not regretted it though it makes mask-wearing a bit more annoying as my mustache gets sweaty then seeps into my mouth. I will keep that annoying bit of facial hair to remind me of what our front line workers have to endure every day as they keep us protected and that my minor inconvenience of wearing a mask is much less important than spreading a virus that as of today has already claimed over 120 thousand lives in the USA and the almost 500 thousand around the world. Wait… Is the US responsible for almost a quarter of the death toll? Let that seep in while people around you go about their lives in pubic, maskless.