I wore a facekini around London to protect my skin and the public were united in their response

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Even if I rarely follow trends, it’s fun to know what’s in this season – multi-pocketed cargo pants and see-through tops – and what’s out – ultra-short miniskirts and 90s neon. This sort of thing gives an insight into the human condition, I find.

A more intriguing new trend than bra-exposing sheer tops, though, is the facekini, which has reportedly become popular on the beaches of China this summer (where it was first designed in 2004). It’s also become a staple accessory among the drag queens on TV show Ru Paul’s Drag Race. But what is a facekini, I hear you ask, nervously.

Well, it’s a full-face fabric mask with holes for the wearer’s eyes and nose. People have been wearing these UV-resistant garments in response to the soaring temperatures, rightly worried about their skin being exposed to the scorching sun. Both chic, and sun-safe, then.

I decide to give the facekini a try, because I am one of those Britons who spent her 20s crisping under the Spanish sun, and is now trying to be sensible in my mid-30s. I do wonder, as I look through the facekini options online, of which there are lots of colours and effects, whether my London street is really ready for this trend. Then again, you do see all sorts of things in the capital.

I select one in bright pink – a bold nod to summer – for £4.99. Perhaps not the best quality, but if I take to the facekini, I’ll feel ready to invest in a higher-end one.

Is my street ready for my facekini? (Photo: Supplied)

When it arrives, I try it on in the mirror. My boyfriend walks past me and jumps back in alarm. “Jesus Christ, you’re not going out like that are you? You’ll get shot,” is his slightly panicked response. OK, not ideal, but I can’t be deterred by one jumpy naysayer. How much does he really know about fashion, anyway?

I step outside the front door, and immediately a cockapoo yaps at me maniacally, and it’s owner, who is texting, does a double take of pure horror when she looks up. A man stares at me curiously all the way down the road, which could be good or bad. Someone else glances at me and averts their eyes quickly, as if they’ve caught me in a compromising state.

People seem alarmed, so I don’t do as much walking around my neighbourhood as I’d planned (Photo: Supplied)

My aim was to go for a walk, perhaps to Sainsbury’s or the park, but on closer inspection, I can see that I do look like I’m about to rob a bank in a Barbie-pink balaclava. I also, let’s be honest, look very much like a gimp.

Given there was that story in July about a man in a gimp suit watching a play at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, and some audience members complaining that it was “a very scary sight”, I decide I don’t want to be photographed and splashed all over the local Facebook groups as a menace (I also don’t want to do a disservice to gimps).

When I see a very elderly man from down the road with his shopping trolley, I duck back inside as I genuinely don’t want to risk giving him a heart attack. Most of all, I am increasingly stressed about bumping into our new downstairs neighbours for the first time while dressed in this facekini.

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I realise now that I’m not bold enough to kick-start this trend in the UK. I can’t even get to the end of the road in it. I admire those in China who are rocking the facekini on the beach and around town, as they are more committed to fashion and UV-avoidance than I am.

Facekini wearers across the globe will have the last laugh with their undamaged skin. No doubt, models Gigi Hadid and Kendal Jenner will soon be rocking them on the Balenciaga catwalk, and someone from Love Island will next week launch a line of them with a huge fast fashion brand.

You know what? I’m going to let them lead the way. Instead of scaring that nice security guard at my local supermarket or making my new neighbours regret signing that lease, I’m going to stick to my factor 50 face cream, lay off the tanning, and leave the facekinis to braver, more fashionable souls than I.


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