The good, the bad, & the ugly: Ranking masks by style and effectiveness


Photo by Kendell Simpson

Handmade masks are deemed most stylish and effective.

Kendell Simpson and Hailey Durm

During these unprecedented times one of the most important things that seems to protect us are masks. Masks keep us and others safe from the spread of the COVID-19, allowing us to still do normal activities in our new reality, a chance to possibly regain our lives that were flipped upside down not too long ago. It’s recommended that everyone wear a mask to stop the spread of the virus, but there are many different types of masks to choose from. Ranging in effectiveness, different masks offer different levels of protection. But when it comes to style, it’s up to you and how you choose to express yourself. 

Hospital/Surgical Masks 






Style- 7/10

The most commonly worn is the simple light blue coloring but they do come in a range of colors like pink, black and purple. They not only come in different colors, these masks can also have fun shapes or designs to coincide with whatever you would like. The plain blue coloring is kind of simple compared to the different colors and designs available.

Effectiveness- 10/10

Have you ever been in a situation where you were walking through the doors at the doctors’ office and regardless of you having a mask on, they offered you a surgical mask in place of it? Though some might think, a mask is a mask, some types aren’t as effective as others. Hospital/surgical masks are the most beneficial in protecting you and others.The fact that they’re  one of the only masks allowed in a hospital or medical buildings only shows how effective these are as a method of protection. 


Handmade Masks (see image above)

Style- 10/10

Handmade masks can be found in hundreds of colors and designs. It is up to you which style you choose and how you rock these festive designs and colors.

Effectiveness- 8/10

Handmade masks are overall pretty effective and it all depends on the ply or the thickness of the mask. The more ply in your mask the better and if your mask has little to no ply, filters can be added to improve the protection. The most common way to make these masks is by sewing fabric together and adding filters. Of course it also depends on who makes the mask, the material being used and the overall quality. But these masks are a safe bet when it comes to protecting yourself and others.


Cloths Masks






Style- 9/10

Cloth masks are similar to handmade masks in many ways, especially when it comes to design. The only difference is the range of fabrics. Handmade masks can range from fabric to fabric, design to design. But cloth masks are just that – cloth.

Effectiveness- 8/10

Overall, cloth masks are very similar to handmade masks. Again it comes back to the ply or the thickness in the masks. Cloth masks aren’t as thick as handmade mask but that doesn’t make them ineffective. In order for these masks to remain effective they must be washed regularly. The only real issue with cloth masks is they absorb moisture. Which, let’s be honest, it’s not fun having a wet mask. Yuck!


Bandana Masks







Style- 1/10

The appeal in these masks is not really understood. They look as though you pulled your shirt over your face as if you forgot a mask. When push comes to shove, these masks don’t make the cut. No matter what design you get, you will look like a cowboy in a western movie and not the cool kind. 

Effectiveness- 2/10

According to Rolling Stone magazine, these types of masks do very little in preventing respiratory droplets from escaping from underneath the mask and from potentially infecting others. Though these masks don’t particularly do more harm than good, if you’re looking for a guaranteed protective mask, this one is not it.

Face Shield








Style- 1/10

There is no style when it comes to this type of mask. It is simply a see through cover. Basically the equivalent of if you weren’t wearing a mask at all.

Effectiveness- 2/10 

According to Susan Beck, an Operating Room(OR) manager at IU North Hospital, face shields prevent direct droplets caused by sneezing or coughing from getting directly on another persons face but do not stop droplets from going around or underneath the shield. They are not recommended to be your primary means of protection because they do not prevent you from getting sick when used alone. It is recommended that if you insist on wearing a face shield, you wear another mask underneath. 

To wrap things up

One of the most important things we can do as individuals to stop the spread of the virus and protect us as well as those around us is most undoubtedly wearing masks. There are many styles, ranging from the classic hospital mask to newer, more inventive face shield. However, the safety levels for each of the types of masks ranges in effectiveness, and based on the type we choose, could protect us at a variety of levels. Above, we rated each of the masks based on the suggestions from Susan Beck, of IU North Hospital. If the mask was rated between a 7-10, it is a smart choice and offers a wide range of protection. If the mask was rated anywhere from a 4-6, it still offers protection but if there’s a better option nearby, don’t hesitate to go for that one. Lastly, if the mask was rated anywhere between 1-3, we would recommend staying away from it. For your safety and style, choose something else. All in all, it’s important that we wear masks for as long as it’s mandated to do so, but in the meantime, you might as well choose the safest (and most stylish) option.