After nearly four months into the dawn of COVID-19 safety regulations from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, many people are beginning to stylize what masks they wear. The University of New Mexico has joined the trend with Lobo face masks available in the bookstore.
There are multiple types and designs of Lobo masks that have been created by different vendors for the bookstore. Marketing Divisions Manager Lisa Walden said the demand for masks is high, not only to keep everyone safe, but because people want to show off their love for the Lobo. She said they sometimes sell about 250 masks in a day between individual sales and orders from departments.
“Once you have to wear something it's like people are now making statements with their masks and people wanna share their Lobo pride. I think that's great,” Walden said.
The masks range between $7.95 and $9.95, with the most expensive being more popular according to Walden. It is a black mask with the Lobo shield on the side, made with three layers of cloth, opposed to the others which have two. That specific mask was designed by a UNM graduate named Scott Creagan.
Creagan was a four-year Lobo football letterman from 1988-1992 with a degree in communications. For the past 25 years, Creagan has owned his own local design company known as Graphic Connections and has actively been involved with the production of Lobo attire for multiple departments including Athletics, UNM Hospital and the bookstore.
When Graphic Connections closed along with every other non-essential business, Creagan said he knew he had to do something to help people stay safe. Towards the end of April, he began designing Lobo face masks in order to make something effective and comfortable.
“We wanna cover up so we can open up,” Creagan said. “I mean I know it’s kind of cliche… but if this is going to help get our economy going and we can all get back to work, then everyone needs to put a mask on, and what better way to do it than to put a comfortable Lobo mask on.”
Before the masks were even available for individual purchase, Creagan had been getting Lobo masks to essential workers both on and off campus, including places like the Albuquerque Fire Department and Sandia National Laboratories. In just a few months, over 300,000 Lobo masks have been distributed and Graphic Connections is donating 2,000 masks to nonprofit organizations around town.
Because of the Athletic Departments pre-existing connection with Graphic Connections, Athletics Director Eddie Nunez was able to work with Creagan to get Lobo masks donated to essential workers on campus, like custodians and facility workers, early on after many businesses were ordered to temporarily close.
“During those times while all the rest of us were at home trying to figure out a way to work remotely, those people were probably lonely on campus trying to figure things out and it was nice to be able to provide something for them,” Deputy Athletic Director David Williams said.
Williams said they were not originally allowing masks to be sold because they were not trying to profit from personal protective equipment. But once people started getting used to masks and the public demand for them grew, they authorized the bookstore to start selling them, as well as multiple other vendors around town.
The prices are as low as they can be in order to make a profit. Walden said the cost is just enough to cover the licensing fee and production cost so the masks are still affordable for whoever wants them.
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The UNM bookstore is averaging about 130 shoppers a day and has disposable masks available at the door in case anyone comes in without a mask. Walden said the bookstore is open for shoppers to browse but most people have been ordering their mask online and picking it up. She said they moved their online order pickup station to where they normally have their return and buybacks window, in the lobby.
“There was the idea that because the mask is trying to prevent something bad that people wouldn’t necessarily want to pay for a Lobo one but they definitely do and I think it’s helping people feel more connected right now and kind of reminding them who they work for or where they go to school so I think it’s a small thing that's kind of bringing people together.” Walden said.
The bookstore is currently operating under limited hours due to the coronavirus. It is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Creagan said he has new mask designs in the process and plans to release either a red one or blue one soon.
Daniel Ward is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wordsofward34