Take a few steps into your first rave or music festival and you’re going to be greeted by tons of different sights and sounds—many of which might seem a little bit different than what you’re used to. Raves and festivals might be based around the dance music and dancing the night away, but they also have a serious fashion component that can’t be ignored. Ravers love accessories, whether it’s fishnet tights, kandi bracelets, body chains, leg masks, or the quintessential rave staple - the face mask. If you’ve found yourself asking "why do people wear rave masks?" you’re not alone, as many a new raver has entered the scene confused and intrigued.
What is a Rave Mask?
No two raves or festivals are exactly alike when it comes to the standard dress code, but one rule prevails - be yourself! The theme and vibe of the rave or festival will influence what people wear to each event, but there are some wardrobe staples that you’re likely to see no matter where you’re raving or what time of year it is. One of those staples is the rave mask, which can be spotted pretty much everywhere you turn at nearly any rave or festival. Rave masks are so ubiquitous that they’re almost a symbol of rave culture, and they have tons of benefits aside from making you look cute. You can find a huge variety of color, pattern, and style options available from shops like iHeartRaves.
When Did People Start Wearing Rave Masks?
Ravers can take credit for a lot of different festival trends (kandi and totems, anyone?), but unfortunately, rave masks aren’t one of them. You have to go back in history - way back - to find the first instance of people wearing party masks. In fact, the French invented party masks back in the 16th century, when wealthy people started wearing face masks with the lavish costumes that they wore to parties held in the days leading up to Lent. If you’ve never heard of Lent, it refers to the forty days before Easter when people choose one thing they love to give up, like certain foods, alcohol, or social media. It goes without saying that living without some of your favorite things is a major bummer, so people have been going all out in parties leading up to Lent for hundreds of years. Ever heard of Mardi Gras? Of course you have. It’s the biggest pre-Lent party there is, and it continues to this day. Once people started wearing masks to these early parties, masked balls, called masquerades, became all the rage in Europe as people went all out to enjoy themselves before making their big sacrifices. You might even say they threw the very first raves, complete with costumes, masks, and dancing that lasted all night.
Not to be outdone, Italians in the 17th century began making the trend their own with papier-mache masks that were literal artistic masterpieces. Only the ultra-rich could afford to hire artists to create these masks, so creating one was a huge deal and a show of status. The Italians didn’t have glitter, but that didn’t stop them from decorating their masks with paint, ribbons, feathers, glass beads, and pretty much anything else you can think of. They loved these masks because their identities were concealed, which meant that they could truly be themselves and cut loose, just like ravers do today.
Ever since those early parties hundreds of years ago, masks have been a staple on the party scene, and they’ve been fully embraced by the rave community. Whether you’re wearing a mask to protect your lungs and airways from floating debris, using them to accessorize your look, or trying to stay incognito so you can really let loose, you’ll be in good company wearing a mask to your next rave or festival.
Why Do People Wear Masks at Raves?
Rave masks are so widespread and popular because wearing them has a ton of benefits and, let’s be honest, they also look pretty cool. Some of the benefits of wearing rave masks include:
Leveling Up Your Look
It’s no secret that fashion is the name of the game at festivals and raves - it’s almost as central to the party as the music and dancing! Of course, there’s a huge range of outfits that ravers choose to wear, so you’ll likely see everything from people wearing shorts and a t-shirt to pasties and leg wraps and everything in between. What matters most when it comes to rave fashion is having fun, being yourself, and expressing yourself through your outfit. As rave culture has evolved, people have added fun accessories like neon hair extensions, harnesses, thigh highs, face gems, kandi, paint splatter, and more to their looks. You can think of rave masks like another accessory that can level up your look and make you really stand out. Whether you choose to purchase a pre-made mask or create your own to match your outfit, now is the time to let your creativity be your guide. Rave masks can truly be anything, and you’re likely to see light up masks, LED masks, glow in the dark masks, purge masks, half face masks, and more. If you’re looking to make a statement but don’t want to start from scratch, consider purchasing a pre-made mask and then add your own touches with glitter, beads, feathers, or whatever else catches your eye!
Photo Credit: anissa.pizzzza
Protection Against Dust
If you’ve attended pretty much any outdoor EDM music festival, we don’t need to preach to you about why wearing a dust mask is basically an essential. But just in case you haven’t, we will anyway. Let’s face it - festivals are awesome, but inhaling the dirt and dust being kicked up by 100,000 of your new best friends is decidedly not. Certain festivals, like Coachella and Burning Man, are known for their prolific dust even during “good” years because they take place in dry environments where dancing can send trillions of tiny particles into the air. If you attended Coachella in 2013, you undoubtedly remember the windstorm that closed out the festival with dust blowing in from the surrounding California desert covering the festival grounds. Burning Man, which takes place in the Black Rock Desert, has dust issues so serious that a health condition has been named after the dust there. The texture of dust in the Black Rock Desert, called playa dust, is extremely fine - even smaller than the particles of baby powder. As a result, any breeze at all (or the serious dancing that happens at any festival) sends those tiny particles flying into the air, where they quickly make their way into your airways and turn to mud as they mix with the moisture in your lungs. Some people even end up with a condition called eosinophils (or more affectionately, playa lung), which occurs when the immune system begins to attack the dust with disease-fighting white blood cells because it recognizes the dust as a foreign body. Over time, this can cause the airways to become clogged, preventing the body from taking in oxygen, which can be serious. That’s why wearing a mask is so beneficial - it can help filter out at least some of the dust from festivals, keeping it out of your nose and mouth and reducing the chances of you spending the next few weeks hacking it up.
Photo Credit: @kristenaguiarr
In the age of social media, it’s one thing to say that every one should let loose and be themselves and another thing entirely to actually do it. While there’s no place more accepting, loving, and free-spirited than the rave community, not everyone is completely comfortable letting loose when cameras are everywhere capturing the entire thing for the ‘gram. Rave masks offer a bit of anonymity that allows you to cut loose and vibe with your friends without worrying about your boss seeing pictures of you in your rave outfit. If you’re looking for a way to blend in with the crowd and do your own thing without worrying about being recognized, try rocking a rave mask at your next event.
What Are the Different Styles of Rave Masks?
There’s no such thing as the “right” style of rave masks - creativity is the name of the game! There are lots of different styles and you should choose the one that meets your needs and compliments your look. These styles are just a few of our favorites.
- Ear mask: With the COVID-19 pandemic still going on into the 2021 festival season, some events might require a face mask like the one pictured below. We love these because they resemble medical masks but they're a bit more glam. No one said being safe has to be boring. The nice thing about ear masks is that they loop behind your ears, so you don’t have to worry about them sliding down while you dance.
- Seamless mask bandanas: If you’re worried about staying cool and maximizing breath-ability, a seamless mask bandana might be your best option. These multi-functional masks can be worn multiple ways and easily slide to cover your neck, mouth, and nose. You can even wear them as headbands, wristbands, hair ties, and whatever else you need. The best thing about seamless mask bandanas is that they will protect you from dust and damaging UV rays while still releasing body heat, so you don’t have to worry about overheating.
- Punk/gas mask: Looking to make a serious statement at your next event? A punk/gas mask is the way to go. They might not be the most breathable or comfortable thing out there, but they are straight-up cool looking, and you can make it suit your style by adding beads, sequins, glitter, and anything else your mind can imagine.