Fashion / Style

Political Leaders & Face Masks — French President Embraces the Mask, While Others Shun It

Emmanuel Macron Gives Masks a Fashionable French Twist

BY // 05.15.20

Embodying the French propensity for leading global fashion trends, the president of France has lent his considerable social influence to a new perspective on protective face masks with his recent appearance in a stylish cloth version — with a patriotic twist.

Shortly before France began emerging from its strict coronavirus lockdown this month, French President Emmanuel Macron modeled a navy-blue face mask, discreetly accented with a tiny ribbon displaying France’s flag colors of blue, white and red, on a visit to a school in Poissy, west of Paris.

No commonplace, plain-vanilla face covering, this. Monsieur le President was making a distinctly French fashion statement.

“With a face mask 100 percent made in France, President Emmanuel Macron showed the famously fashionable French people Tuesday that civic responsibility and style are not mutually exclusive,” Sylvie Corbet of the Associated Press cleverly observed in her delightful May 5 accounting of the event.

The AP underscored the significance of the president’s face mask choice and modeling by stamping Corbet’s story with the headline: “France’s Macron Makes Mask Wearing an Act of National Pride.” Vive la France!

Macron’s handsomely masked visit to the Pierre Ronsard primary school was meant to promote the types of masks that would become mandatory on public transit and other venues as they started to reopen on May 11, when France began to ease restrictions in place during the country’s eight-week coronavirus lockdown.

The mask Macron wore, designed to protect the public from the coronavirus, was reportedly produced by knitwear manufacturer Chanteclair and retails for a little under five euros (or about $5.34).  The French military tested the mask’s breathability and effectiveness in filtering out small particles, according to the presidency. As for its style, Corbet observed that the blue color of the mask Macron wore on his visit to the elementary school complemented his blue suit and tie.

“While some world leaders have been worried about being seen while masked, Macron previously appeared at public events in surgical masks, both thin ones and heavier strength models,” Corbet noted, without naming names of the mask reluctant politicians (though well-publicized examples abound).

Paper and cloth masks, including the model Macron and his education minister wore on their school visit, went on sale at French supermarkets during the same week in anticipation of widespread use starting May 11, Corbet reported.

Given that the coronavirus has quashed “la bise,” the traditional French greeting of the cheek kiss, perhaps a French-themed mask style like Macron’s will be adopted in its stead. Not only in France, but among socialites in other countries now forced to refrain from the habit.

Among the many Francophiles in Texas, there might be a special interest in wearing such a mask as a symbol of international friendship, particularly among certain prominent Houston fashionistas who are justly famous for their support of worthy French causes. After all, Macron’s mask modeling ultimately raises the question: Wherever you are, whatever nationality you might be, what could be a better cause right now than protecting others from the coronavirus pandemic?

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