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Who Was That Masked Man?

  • July 12, 2020

In the end, the most surprising aspect of President Donald J. Trump’s decision to finally, months after his own advisers recommended it, bow to medical wisdom and wear a face mask was not that he did it at all — even in his alternate reality, where we are winning against the virus, that was probably inevitable — but the mask that he chose.

After all, his first mask was never going to be just another mask. He had to have known everyone would be looking, given his previous refusal to don face covering. He had to have known the selection would be studied and parsed. He is nothing if not an expert at branding. And masks are fast becoming a short of shorthand for self-branding: a highly visible and easy-to-read identifier of self for the world. That’s why they keep being talked about as a fashion/political statement (fashion being essentially driven by identity politics, when you come down to it).

So, for his visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday, what did he go for?

Not a generic white or blue mask, the kind that subsumes the personal to the community. Not — as one might have expected — a bright red MAGA mask, the facial equivalent of the famous baseball cap (they already exist, selling for $19.99 and “shipping from the great state of Pennsylvania” by Trump2020Masks). Not one with the sort of gold “TRUMP” logo famous from so many of his real estate ventures. Not even one that displayed any humor or sports preferences.

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