PARIS – With a face mask 100% made in France, President Emmanuel Macron showed the famously fashionable French people Tuesday that civic responsibility and style are not mutually exclusive.
Macron used a visit to a primary school to promote the type of cloth masks that will be de rigueur on public transportation and other locations when France starts emerging from its coronavirus lockdown next week.
The dark blue version Macron wore while visiting the school west of Paris complemented his tie and blue suit, and came embellished on one side with ribbon detail in red, white and blue, the colors of the French flag.
The French presidency said the mask, designed specifically to protect the public from the virus, was produced by knitwear manufacturer Chanteclair and retails for 4.92 euros ($5.34.) The French military tested the garment's breathability and effectiveness in filtering out small particles, the presidency said.
While some world leaders have been worried about the optics of being seen while masked, Macron previously appeared at public events in surgical masks, both thin ones and heavier strength models.
At the primary school, a child asked “Who is it?" when the president entered a classroom. Macron briefly lifted his cloth mask to reveal his face, then pulled the covering back into place.
He later joked about needing to use hand sanitizer because he touched the mask, which he was not supposed to do.
Macron’s government has been widely criticized for having an inconsistent policy on the civilian use of face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. When the virus first reached Europe, industrial grade masks were requisitioned by the French state and aimed at health workers only.
The government later pushed for homemade cloth masks to be used as alternatives amid a shortage of commercially made medical masks.
Paper and cloth masks, including the model Macron and Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer debuted on Tuesday, went on sale at French supermarkets this week in anticipation of widespread use starting May 11.
The president's accessory, as well as his handling of it, succeeded in attracting attention on social media. A photo taken of the French leader when he had the mask pulled down below his nose prompted one observer to note that despite being “rather stylish,” the covering made a poor barrier to infection if nostrils were exposed.
Other commentators tweeted that Macron looked like a villain or the Sub-Zero character in the “Mortal Kombat ”video games.
Images of Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova wearing a crushed raspberry pink mask matching her outfit to the new prime minister's swearing-in ceremony in March went viral on Twitter.
In Germany, the governor of Bavaria, Markus Soeder, wore a mask in the blue and white lozenge-print of the state flag to several public appearances.