We live in a world where there is such a thing as a luxury face shield. It’s made by Louis Vuitton, it will be available for purchase in October, and it will reportedly cost nearly $961—though a rep denied that pricing to another outlet, saying the price hadn’t been announced yet. After a brief period of taking in and cooling off about all these facts, I am glad that it exists.
Yes, you can get a face shield for $2 many other places. And yes, a supercheap face shield would probably protect you just as well from floaty bits of coronavirus as this fancy one. It might also say “Direct Splash Protection” across the forehead, or resemble a pair of oversize lab goggles. Which is to say, it will be a little industrial, because, prior to this year, face shields were hard to come by outside a hospital or lab or the occasional space age–y fashion show. There have been runs at making fashionable face shields. But despite a HuffPost headline from this summer declaring that “sexy face shields actually exist,” my careful analysis of the offerings, many of which are available via Etsy, has revealed that they are more “cutesy” than “stylish.” And a cutesy face shield is still kind of a dorky face shield.
The Louis Vuitton face shield, in contrast, looks … kind of nice, at least to the extent that something that is 97 percent plastic can. It’s trimmed with leather. The part that secures it to the wearer’s head looks sort of like a headband, and less like something that was jury-rigged by a chemical technician. Cheap face shields are often sold flat, with some assembly required, which probably adds to this effect; I can only imagine that the Louis Vuitton one will come in a nice big box with its own cloth storage bag, the way expensive purses do. According to Vanity Fair, the Louis Vuitton face shield “can be flipped upwards to be worn as a peaked hat,” which sounds, if not particularly attractive, like a convenient option to have. (That story also notes it comes with “transition lens technology so it can go from clear to dark depending on the level of sunlight,” which sounds a little annoying, but, hey, we’re in a pandemic, and that could prove practical.) And maybe this is just the illusion of the expensive price tag, and expert styling in the press pictures, but I think this face shield actually looks sort of comfortable.
To be clear: This is a $1,000 (maybe) face shield. Don’t buy it! This is a ridiculously high-priced logo-covered item for rich people. But it’s also not exactly a trinket. If even some rich people are a little bit more inclined to wear personal protective gear, because they have purchased this face shield, that’s good for all of us. Plus, doesn’t a Louis Vuitton–designed face shield stand to make face shields a little better, in general? I have watched Meryl Streep’s monologue in The Devil Wears Prada enough times to know that the tiny details of a luxury good inevitably trickle down to the stuff the rest of us buy, making our lives a tiny bit more cerulean blue (in the case of the belt in question in Streep’s speech), or a tiny bit less dorky (in the case of this face shield).
You might, at this point, be wondering whether or not you need to buy any face shield at all. The answer is that while they add eye protection, face shields should never really take the place of masks, most experts agree. Particles can pretty easily get around the sides (and it’s hard to tell from the company’s photo, but this may be especially true of the Louis Vutton shield, which looks to be on the shorter side, and should be worn with a mask or when you can distance). In locations where case counts are high, it is much safer to just stay home, if you can, than to bundle in multiple layers of PPE and head into the world. But face shields can come in handy as an additional protective layer, with masks, when workers don’t have the option to treat patients or teach kids or bag groceries remotely. Face shields also offer a way to eat and drink while wearing some protection; if we all wore them when we venture to outdoor and reduced-capacity restaurants, maybe servers, who can never entirely distance from patrons, would be a little better off.
As I gaze at the press image of this sort of ridiculous face shield, I am reminded of something that infectious disease doctor and face shield proponent Eli Perencevich told me in an interview a few weeks ago: “The best thing is giving people options. If we have a face covering on everybody, we can control the virus.” On our call, Perencevich pointed me to the inexpensive face shields as good options. But it’s America, so it’s only natural that some of the options should be stupidly expensive.