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How Mask-Wearing In Singapore Evolved From The Past To Present, Proves SG Was A Trendsetter

Masks in Singapore

Wallet? Check. Phone? Check. Mask? Oops time to make the five-minute walk back home, miss the bus and message your friend that you’re going to be late. 

There’s one trip you don’t need to mask up for though: the one down memory lane. From protecting us against viruses and annual bouts of haze to transforming into a fashion statement, here’s how mask-wearing has evolved in Singapore over the past two decades.

1. Surgical masks – Throwback to SARS

SARS temperature taking exercise
Temperature-taking exercises were conducted across Singapore schools
Image credit: EDP4B

Most of us were still in school when SARS made its grand debut in 2003. Though we probably have a vague memory of donning surgical masks those years ago, most will remember the daily temperature-taking exercises, hygiene campaigns and good old Phua Chu Kang telling us to “use your brain”.

Surgical mask singapore

For hanging around since then, these reliable blue-and-whites easily earn bragging rights as the “go-to” mask for most Singaporeans. 

Circa: 2003-2004

2. N95 masks – From when we were watching PSI levels

singapore haze mbs pool
Image credit: Guo Qi

There was a time when the top-right corners of our television screens were more thrilling than the actual dramas and documentaries being broadcasted, ngl. That was especially the case on 21st June 2013, when PSI levels soared to a whopping 401.

While the haze heavily impacted our economy and especially the tourism industry, the ones who suffered the most were the old and vulnerable. Even among the healthy, respiratory problems also became widespread as the thick, suffocating smog took its toll.

N95 mask covid singapore
Image credit:

For most of us then, we’d only seen N95 masks worn by doctors, scientists and professionals who deal with dangerous substances. But with the haze posing a real threat to our health, it wasn’t long before those masks became an everyday sight. 

Circa: 2014-2015 (or whenever suddenly got haze)

2. First free masks from vending machines – As part of the COVID care pack

mask wearing singapore free masks
Image credit: Carousell 

At the start of 2020, with steadily increasing fears of an impending pandemic, disposable surgical masks started to get snatched off the shelves. These essentials were vital for keeping us safe as case numbers grew, and our government intervened in typical Singaporean fashion with free reusable masks for everyone. 

The distribution of these free reusable masks also marked the start of the years-long “new normal”: masking up was now compulsory whenever we headed out from home. 

Made from a thick, cotton material, many of us had to endure sweat-drenched faces in the merciless Singapore heat. But on the plus side – these reusable masks ensured that every Singaporean could now head down to dapao lunch without worrying about depleting their stash of disposable ones.

Circa: March-April 2020

3. Special-edition artsy ones – From #MaskForTheNation

maskforthenation mask singapore
Image credit: Twitter

From logo design to building naming, we’ve seen a fair share of contests designed to get creative members of the public involved. Fully embracing our new reality of wearing masks on the daily, Mediacorp announced a mask-designing competition to commemorate NDP 2020. 

Named #MaskForTheNation, this competition unmasked a series of vibrant winning entries featuring adorable local designs of everyday sights in Singapore. Echoing the many wholesome stories we’ve heard at the onset of the pandemic, this was also a noble cause – with sales from winning entries going to support persons with disabilities. 

Circa: July-August 2020

4. Patterned masks – For a “hypebeast” or fashionable look

pattern mask singapore
Image credit: @independentmarketsg

Fashionistas who are all about the perfect #OOTD, we know you’ll relate to this. There was no way you were about to let a plain old white or black mask dull your carefully colour-coordinated outfits.

Luckily, vibrant options quickly grew aplenty, with patterned masks going on sale almost everywhere as local fashion brands adapted to the new demand. Whether we were dressing up for an anniversary date or visiting loved ones during holidays, these eye-catching masks allowed us to channel our inner hypebeast for literally any occasion. 

Circa: Whenever we were feelin’ fashionable

5. Masks with adjustable loops – for those with tiny faces

adjustable masks
Image credit: Carousell

As someone with a tiny face, I remember feeling hella relieved when these masks with adjustable earloops hit the market, so I didn’t have to fumble with the straps or turn to other mask hacks to get a good fit. 

The extra secure fit was also useful in ensuring that constant movement and talking wouldn’t pull the mask down over noses or up our chins.

Circa: Late 2020

6. Masks with high filtration capacity – To guard against new virus variants

high filtration capacity mask singapore

A good not so year into the pandemic, we’re now seeing super-viral Covid-19 variants from all over the world popping up in our little red dot. As we scramble to keep ourselves protected amid spikes in local cases and clusters, vigilant Singaporeans have still been hitting “add to cart” on high filtration capacity masks for added precaution.

Even with a national vaccination programme steadily chugging along, our authorities are still advising us to opt for these more effective options to hasten our return to business as usual.

Circa: 2021

Up your protection game with Livinguard

livinguard mask singapore

Highly-effective, sustainable, breathable and easy to maintain, Livinguard Street Masks offer the best of both worlds, whether you’re Team Surgical Masks or Team Reusable Masks

Available on marketplaces like Shopee, Lazada and on the Livinguard website, the masks feature Livinguard Technology that destroys over 99.9% of viruses while reducing cross contamination compared to common reusables or disposables.

This ensures that viruses transferred to your mask when you unconsciously touch it are destroyed, keeping you safe. It’s also easy to maintain: simply rinse with tap water on a weekly basis – no soap or scrubbing needed.

livinguard mask singapore
Livinguard masks can be worn up to 210 times over six months, and come with adjustable ear loops and nose clips for a comfortable fit.

As a bonus, it also features great breathability for those out and about for long hours, and offers a wide range of sizes from kids to XL to fit both petite and larger faces alike. 

livinguard antibacterial shirt
Livinguard’s premium soft cotton t-shirts and polo shirts are also highly breathable 

As you protect yourself from germs and viruses while you’re out and about, Livinguard’s new line of premium cotton anti-odour t-shirts and polo shirts feature antibacterial tech to keep you fresh and comfortable throughout the day. Whether you’re looking for easier laundry days or the perfect ‘fit for active days, Livinguard’s shirts are also highly breathable and soft to the touch. 

Livinguard antibacterial shirt

Whether you’re masking up to head out or lounging around at home, Livinguard’s line of reusable antiviral masks and anti-odour shirts will keep you safe and fresh round the clock. Featuring self disinfecting tech that destroys viruses and bacteria, you’ll be well-protected from both viruses and odours – wherever your day takes you.

Find out more about Livinguard Street Masks here

This post was brought to you by Livinguard
Photography by Ian Sim
Cover image credits (L-R): EDP4B, @independentmarketsg and Business Standard