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Masks are the brand new vogue accent: Denver retailers and buyers weigh in on COVID-created outlet for self-expression – The Denver Put up

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A pair of mannequins posed in the window of True, a women's boutique in the trendy River North Art District in Denver's Five Points neighborhood, modeling fall looks.

One wore a marigold, a textured sweater, and a wide-brimmed hat. The other was wearing a black puff coat over a pink shirt in jeans. The second mannequin had something dangling from her ear that a year ago passers-by might have found it strange. However, seven months after the COVID-19 pandemic, a patterned cloth mask appears natural.

"They really are seen as a new accessory," said Monique Plante, a true sales rep. "They're definitely popular. I get people coming in asking for masks."

Joe & # 39; s Liquors, also located on the 2600 block on Larimer Street, also sells masks. They stand on the counter next to the tobacco products and the alcohol shooters. They're cheaper than the masks at True, $ 5.99 versus $ 12 or $ 14 each. Unlike the floral designs among True's offerings, Joe & # 39; s Liquors sells masks with the Colorado flag or a Denver Broncos logo on them.

"No choice," Joe's owner Ung Choi said when asked why he started wearing masks. "People asked."

Joe Rubino, the Denver Post

A patterned mask is part of the look for a mannequin that was displayed in the window of the True Boutique at 2621 Larimer Street in Denver on Wednesday October 14th.

It is a sign of the times that the two neighboring – albeit very different – companies sell face coverings. It's also testament to how many people in Denver and across the country have adjusted to the recommendations of public health experts and embraced masks as a way of self-expression.

"It has quickly moved from being a commodity to a differentiator," said Melissa Akaka, associate professor of marketing at the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business. "It's attached to our body. It covers our face. Masks are definitely closely related to how we interact with others and how we express ourselves."

According to Akaka, co-director of DU's Consumer Insights and Business Innovation Center, government intervention has played a role in masks that move from something primarily related to medical personnel to acceptance and expectation in contexts that evolve Work up to the mountain trails in Colorado. Governor Jared Polis issued a nationwide mask mandate in July, which applies to anyone over the age of 11 and covers all indoor public spaces, including shops. Polis extended the mandate for another 30 days on Monday as coronavirus hospital admissions increased in the state.

This intervention is associated with a pushback. Demonstrations have been held in Colorado to protest the Mask Ordinance and other state restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the virus. An event held at Bandimere Speedway in Jefferson County last month drew more than 1,000 exposed people.

As Choi saw in the Denver Central Market grocery hall across from his store, many companies enforced their own mandatory masking rules before the governor or city officials took action. And a lot of people spontaneously buy a mask so that they can shop where they want to shop.

“The mandate to wear them in specific areas means we must have enough of this product to get through our daily lives. If you have to wear it once, you might as well make it something you want to wear "said Akaka.

Akaka noted that stylization has quickly become a huge part of mask wearing, possibly because so many masks were handcrafted by someone with a sewing machine at the beginning of the pandemic. Her 11-year-old daughter personalized a monochrome mask after not finding one online that she liked.

The COVID Essentials store at the Park Meadows mall in Lone Tree opened dozens of different masks and face shields lining the walls in a showroom style over Labor Day weekend. According to co-owner Nathan Chen, masks cost between $ 14.99 and $ 129.99 for a "portable air purifier" with a built-in fan.

"Denver likes the blingy," said Chen on Tuesday, pointing to a series of masks adorned with Swarovski crystals.

COVID Essentials offers accessories such as lanyards and extra straps that allow masks to be connected behind the neck instead of over the ears. It also offers a wide variety of iron-on patches ranging from numbers and letters to emojis and pop culture characters. Salesman Chris Guzman wore a mask with spots of the Pokémon Charizard and the Batman logo.

"Most of the day, I'm in the custom corner pushing masks," said Chen of the patches' popularity. "We did that on our jeans and jackets as children."

Of course, there are already many masks with logos and designs in the store. Masks bearing the name of President Donald Trump have been popular, Chen said. He also wears Joe Biden masks.

Denver-based Tina DeVita bought a polyester mask with a Broncos logo on Tuesday from COVID Essentials. It was a little pricey for her at $ 24.99 pre-tax, but she'd been looking for a Broncos mask and got a $ 5 coupon for her next mask in the store.

Like many people currently working in the hotel industry, DaVita has problems. She has been on leave from her job in a hotel gift shop. She wore face covers every day at work and had 12 masks before buying her broncos print on Tuesday.

"Now I feel like I need something to coordinate with my clothes, whether for business or casual," said DeVita. "It's the new normal, so you might as well have fun with it."

The Lone Tree Store is one of eight COVID Essentials locations across the country. Chen's partner Nadav Benimetzky started the first in Florida. The chain and its Park Meadows location were featured in a story by a reporter for Kaiser Health News posted on the New York Times website. In this story, Bienmetzky said: "I can't wait to get out of business at some point." He looks forward to when the coronavirus is included and masks and other COVID-related consumables are no longer strictly necessary.

Chen believes it will take a while for demand to subside. He often hears from customers who are concerned that a future vaccine may not be effective or that some people choose not to be vaccinated, he said. These people expect to rely on masks as a line of defense even after a vaccine is introduced. In the short-term, people are buying masks to wear on New Year's Eve or as gifts for the holidays, Chen said.

COVID Essentials has a lot of competition to meet that demand, even in its own mall. Pamela Schenck Kelly, general manager of Park Meadows, estimates that about half of the 180+ retailers opening at the mall today are selling masks.

"Unintended Consequences: Masks have become part of the look," said Kelly. "Many masks are an expression of a person's point of view, an expression of their style. It's almost like the T-shirt was in the 70s."

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