Miguel Madrid" />

Rain or shine, Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York is a hub for street vendors offering different kinds of face coverings. They offer masks from surgical N95s to the expensive and fashionable to those of cheap cloth.

“I have all kinds, you name it, I possibly have it, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Guess, of course none of these are originals but you get the idea,” said Joseph Etienne, a mask vendor right off the subway station on Junction Boulevard.

Etienne started selling new designs for the upcoming season. “Man, ladies love the ones with sparkles, showing brands or expensive ones, but men like more cheap masks, disposable,” he said while unwrapping and showing the items he sells. 

The pandemic numbers continue to evolve as the CDC graphs show different waves. Even as masks mandates fluctuate, and the resistance to wear masks continues for some, masks have become a fashion statement for many students.

“The colorful ones are great for me,” said Valentina Sanchez, a creative writing student who was looking for a less “boring” face covering. Behind the mask a smile showed. he said, “I like this design with colorful flowers because it brings me a visual joy, opposite to what the ones nurses use, those were seen everywhere.” 

Sanchez remembers the beginning of the pandemic and how hard it was to get even the regular hospital-looking sanitary masks. “I searched online for weeks before I found some handmade masks on Etsy, months later a whole variety of disposable ones came out,” she said.

While the basics of marketing, supply and demand, were stronger than ever, it was only a matter of time before some students became confused about the whole new market and the variety of stylish and functional designs. 

For Mathilda Karimata, a pharmacy technician student, choosing the right style was not easy and became 

overwhelming because there were many online options. As Karimata pulls out from her purse other face covers, she said, “I ended up with eight different boxes.” 

She added, “I couldn’t decide which masks to buy. I’ve had pink, blue sky, black, some with Japanese characters, purple, and some bicolor ones.” 

As a result of her excitement and online research, she ended up paying more than she was expecting. “I paid a total of one hundred and twenty something dollars,” she revealed. It was worth every penny, she explained, because she could finally have different colors for different occasions. 

While fashionable and trendy masks excite some students, they stressed out other students worried about their effectiveness and protection. 

Marco Aurelio, an accounting major, was more concerned with the actual use of a mask. “I almost lost a good friend because of Covid,” he clarified, “so I did not want to be infected.”

Aurelio did extensive online research, and he found an official alternative. “I did not know the existence of the N95,” he said, and finding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website helped him to make the right choice.

Based on official information, he decided to use certified masks over fashionable ones, “I know they do not look as cool as others, but it made me feel safer.” A drop of sweat ran down his nose, showing how uncomfortable those masks can be. 

Choosing functionality over style can be tricky and challenging, as Aurelio found out when he got his first N95 mask. “It was hard to breath in the beginning, but I got used to it as hours passed,” he recalled. He was not trying to impress anyone on campus.

Aurelio was just trying to stay as safe as possible.