By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – In the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic put the world into a tailspin, the humble face mask has evolved into an American fashion statement.

Now available in a myriad of styles and patterns, the now-ubiquitous facial covering has quickly replaced the T-shirt as the coolest way for nearly anyone – from firefighters and National Basketball Association fans to punk rockers and cat lovers – to tell the world about what they love. “People are getting creative with these masks. I love the individuality,” said Johnny Pisano, a touring musician who has added masks to a line of T-shirts he sells online to his fans. His masks feature an image of Pisano performing his signature stage move – leaping into a split while playing bass guitar.In the United States, 55% of adults reported wearing masks out in public, according to an ABC/Ipsos survey released on April 10.

They are now mandatory in many U.S. grocery stores, doctors’ offices and wine shops, and many are following official orders to wear a mask when they leave home and cannot maintain social distancing to avoid disease spread.

The Custom Shop in Glastonbury, Connecticut, a drapery and upholstery workroom shut down by the pandemic, is helping to fill the new demand by using its fabrics to make masks.Requests have come in for flame-patterned fabrics for firefighters, lighthouses for nearby Lighthouse Surgery Center, and kittens for cat lovers, said shop manager Jose Moncada.

Even the NBA and Women’s National Basketball Association have officially begun selling cloth face coverings sporting logos from all 30 men’s teams and all 12 women’s teams for $15, promising proceeds will benefit Feeding America in the United States and Second Harvest in Canada.

If the mask rule stretches into the fall fashion season in New York, the pandemic epicenter as well as the nation’s trend-setting capital, some commentators expect coronavirus couture to go entirely black, a color favored by the city’s arbiters of taste.

Others predict the hottest masks in these unpredictable times will restore the idea that bright is beautiful, catching looks with flowery fabrics, python skins and trendy logos.”It’s a little power moment. Masks are going to be that powerful health accessory that adds to your total look,” said Avril Graham, executive fashion and beauty editor at Harper’s Bazaar.”You might even be having evening, glamorous masks made to accessorize a gown or cocktail dress. Because there will be social distancing for months to come,” Graham said.

Back in Brooklyn, Pisano the bass player has plans for 150 custom-made masks to sell on, inspired by Facebook fans who posted pictures of themselves in similar homemade masks. His leaping bass player logo helps him sell about 100 of his commemorative items a year, most of them T-shirts. But citing his “New York street-sense,” he sees only a limited window for masks to do good and a time ahead when they are used for more traditional or sinister purposes.”Right now, because of how it is, everything is cool. I’m just afraid when it’s over – and they want to rob your house,” Pisano said.

(This story corrects spelling of “ubiquitous” in second paragraph)

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)