Essay: Unfortunate Fashions #2: The Facekini

Just when you think fashion can’t get any wackier, along comes the Facekini. Apparently now all the rage with beach goers in China, the Facekini is ostensibly worn to protect the wearer’s face from the harsh rays of the sun. As you can see, the masks completely cover the swimmers’ heads, revealing only their eyes, noses, and mouths (Snooki from Jersey Shore, take note). These pictures show bathers in the coastal tourist city of Qingdao, Shandong Province out and about at the beach, sporting what looks to be the most unfortunate fashion craze since, well, since the toeshoe.

As you can see, some effort has been put into making them stylish, what with the bright pastel colors and patterns, even if they make you look like you’re recovering from first-degree burns to the face. And according to news reports, they’re selling like hot cakes. “They have been very popular,” said one dealer from Henan on the Internet shopping site taobao.com. “We are already out of the pink ones … all of them sell well. Orange is the most effective in protecting people from sea creatures.”

Unfortunately, he did not elaborate what type of sea creatures that might be. Seahorses? Scallops? Great white sharks? I can see where they might protect against jellyfish or plankton, but I’m not sure how effective a facemask would be if you’re under attack by a crazed octopus or a really pissed off giant squid.

Now, I’m all for looks that’s are as functional as they are fashionable, and it’s even better if they protect you from sea creatures, but this one really has me puzzled. Do they not have SPF 100 sunscreen in China? If you’re so worried about sunburn that you’re willing to wear a protective mask that robs you of your identity, why go to the beach at all? What happens if you absent-mindedly walk into a bank or convenience store wearing one? Does the teller throw money at you while beseeching, “Don’t kill me. I have a family!” Not surprisingly, the Chinese government is understandably concerned about their use in bank robberies.

Mom? Is that you?

And then there’s the loss of identity I mentioned above, as well as an issue with practicality. When at the beach, how the heck do you know who’s who? Let’s say you get a text from friends, “We’re at the beach. Join us.” If you’re standing at the top of the dunes looking for them, how do spot them when they look the same as everyone else, especially if you don’t know what other identifying articles of clothing they’re wearing? “I’m the one in the orange Facekini” just doesn’t cut it.

All kidding aside, I know that a pale, almost ghostly complexion is a much desired look of beauty in China and other Asian countries, so in that case wearing a Facekini makes sense. Still, I’m wondering if this latest fashion trend will be confined to the beaches of Asia, or if it’s poised to sweep the world. But if you’re going to wear something this, um, unusual, why not go all the way? So here’s a list of other options you could conceivably embrace when it comes to the whole ‘I’m wearing a mask in public and I’m not Batman’ thing. Practical uses are also provided.

The Luchador: The Mexican wrestling mask has long been a unique fashion statement. It’s head hugging features lend a slightly menacing look of superiority and athleticism, while its interesting designs, colors and patterns suggest a wrestler with the soul of an artist. Extremely versatile, you can wear them in the ring during the day, and then match them with a colorful blazer and sharp pair of slacks for an evening party at George Clooney’s house.

Scarecrow: The mask worn by Batman’s evil nemesis The Scarecrow would be perfect for rustic, countrified events like hootenannies, square dances and hay rides. Its simple design suggests someone who is interested in fashion, but not married to it; someone who demands comfort over style while still looking like the talk of the town. Also, given the fact that it comes loaded with the aerosol fear toxin Scarecrow uses to paralyze his victims, it could also protect you from muggers, but probably not a really pissed off giant squid. The rope/noose necktie is strictly optional.

Executioner’s Mask: Perhaps you’re going to a goth concert or satanic ritual, and you really want to look the part. This executioner’s mask with it’s no-nonsense design and handy eye zippers will help you fit right in. While it only comes in black with a tasteful red trim, it gives you the tough, no-nonsense look of someone who’s not to be f*^#ed with, even if in reality you’re a Sheldon Cooper-ish ninety pound weakling. Wear them with leather jacket and matching leather pants for a look that just screams, “You slay me!”

Alien Face Hugger: Here’s a bold, daring look that’s really in your face, although on your face is probably more apropos. While not for all occasions (George Clooney might not appreciate it, but Rob Zombie will), this could be worn at a death metal concert or Headbanger’s Ball to establish yourself as person of discernable, if not eclectic tastes. Note that some adjustments may have be made to the fingers to allow you to see. Bonus: the hanging tail would be a marvelous stand-in for a skinny eighties-style tie (when it’s not wound tightly around your neck, of course), although this might not be something you’d want to wear to a Wham! reunion concert.

Japanese Noh Mask: Noh (or Nogaku) is derived from the Sino-Japanese word for “skill” and “talent,” both of which you’ll show off in spades when you hit the town in this interesting mask. Its greatest advantage is that it gives you actual facial features, even if its rigidity makes you look like you’ve just had your latest Botox injection. Best of all, the follically impaired can paint as much hair on the top as they like, eliminating the need for an embarrassing rug. Originally worn in classic 14th century Japanese stage productions, you’ll create your own drama when you work the crowd at Sardi’s or Lady Gaga’s birthday party wearing this singular fashion.

So there you have it, for better or worse: masks for all social occasions. Regular readers of my blog might rightfully ask why this essay does not fall under the What’s My Beef category, and that’s because the Chinese bathers pictured above are actually at the beach, and not a wedding, funeral or bar mitzvah. Still, I’m guessing that’s it’s only a matter of time before they hit American shores, and I’m sure an anything goes city like San Francisco will eat them alive, especially when paired with a battered Grateful Dead T-shirt, a kilt and, of course, a pair of toeshoes.

About Stephen Kelly Creative

Hi, I'm Stephen Kelly, a writer, editor, photographer and graphic designer living in beautiful San Francisco, CA, USA. Amongst the things I love are writing, photography, movies, music, fitness, travel, Batman, all things Australian, food and fun, all of which I hope to reflect in this here blog. Welcome aboard ... now let's get busy!
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36 Responses to Essay: Unfortunate Fashions #2: The Facekini

  1. Rats! You got to the punchline before I got to tease you about it. I was going to say “Stephen Kelly, in this gear PLUS toeshoes, I crawled out of your worst nightmare and am now invading your reality.” But you were already there. Oh, well. I really appreciated your absurdist article.

    • Hehe … well, shadowwarrior, I guess that proves that great minds indeed think alike. I saw this online yesterday, and I knew it was civic duty to jump right on it. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything so quickly in my life! As usual, thanks for stopping by!

  2. drewpan says:

    What bothers me are the quotes you get from the articles about these Chinese women. The one that bugs me goes something like: “I’m protecting myself from the sun because only peasants get tans.”

    There’s a lot of prejudice in that statement! Outside of fantasy novels… who the hell uses the term “peasants” anymore?

    • Hey Drew, here in America we call them “rednecks.”
      Yeah, I read that in the web articles I saw, and it sounded ignorant to me too. As an American, I can’t pretend to understand the class structure in China, but I know it’s something Chinese people are very aware of. I wanted this essay to fun and light-hearted, so I didn’t even go there.

  3. vicentesf says:

    We were just talking about this at work today and having a good laugh at how ridiculous it is. Hilariously written – great job! Lol

  4. Pat Bailey says:

    You are good! Thanks for a good laugh this morning. Keep the posts coming.

  5. Madhu says:

    Oh don’t I know the obsession with ‘fairness’ in Asia! Girls on two wheelers here wear cotton gloves all the way to their shoulders and wrap their faces in scarves under their helmets just to avoid that ‘peasant tan’🙂 Can see the Facekini becoming a valuable accessory 😀

    • Hi Madhu … wow! That’s something people here in America don’t understand, I think. Perhaps that’s why we see the Facekini as something unusual. But in cultures where it’s important for women to have fair skin, I can see why these could be, as you say, a valuable accessory!

  6. Northern Narratives says:

    I don’t know, those facekinis look at lot like what people wear for downhill skiing or snowboarding, maybe they have the seasons confused???

  7. ::gasp!::

    I wonder what scientific evidence supports the claim that orange is the most effective in protecting against sea creatures. I don’t think I’d want to be part of that test group.

    • Hi Hippie! My question is: can sea creatures even detect colors? Do you not want to be part of that test group because you’re afraid of sea creatures, or afraid of being seen in public in a Facekini. Then again, if you were wearing one, people probably wouldn’t know it’s you anyway. Thoughts to ponder!

      • Yes, both of those.

        Apparently they steer clear of orange, which is fascinating. I wouldn’t want to be one of the unlucky test group subjects assigned to colors other than orange, and that is most likely what would happen.

  8. This is troublingly bizarre. Although I have always been affronted by toeshoes, I am downright creeped out by the facekini. Thanks for highlighting these disturbing fashion trends with your humorous and well-written essays!

  9. Ok where do I sign up and how can I obtain one?! I’m ready to set a beach date with my girlfriends and I! But no seriously though, this is beyond obscene! Awesome laugh for a Saturday here at work🙂

  10. alienscout says:

    for a moment i thought the others had arrived…

  11. My husband was showing me these pics the other day, they look rediculous, and like you said I don’t understand why they chose this over sunscreen!

  12. SakuraDreams says:

    Hilarious perspective on this “unfortunate fashion”!

  13. Ehm…. you can’t be serious………! This is, the least i can say and being very kind, unpleasant! (and scary and stupid)

  14. Pingback: A-Z Challenge: The Letter L: Lucha Libre! | Stephen Kelly Creative

  15. adinparadise says:

    Absolutely hilarious, Stephen.:) These masks are really scary, I think. I’d hate to be on a beach surrounded by these spooky apparitions.

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