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BTS is one of the biggest boy bands in the world. Chances are if you’ve seen pictures of the K-pop group out in public, they’re most likely wearing a “mouth mask” or a face mask. Why do they wear these masks? Are face masks culturally significant? Does BTS wear them for privacy and security reasons? Here’s what we know.

BTS group members
BTS group members Suga and Kim Tae-Hyung | Photo by JTBC PLUS/Imazins via Getty Images)

It’s common in a few Asian countries for people to wear face masks

In countries like Japan, China, and South Korea, it’s common for residents to wear mouth masks. There are a few reasons, first starting with the bird flu panic in many Asian countries. The masks were used as a courtesy to people, as a way to keep germs contained. Later, using mouth masks acted as two-fold protection for some; healthy people wore the mask to prevent germs from entering their systems.

In some countries with dangerous levels of air pollution, face masks are worn as a precaution against toxins in the air. More people, including celebrities, started wearing face masks, adding another aspect to the mouth mask trend — fashion.

The BTS boys have been photographed wearing face masks in public

If you’ve seen a picture of BTS walking around, most likely, at least one of them will be wearing a mouth mask. However, BTS is not the only celebrity with this face accessory, as model Naomi Campbell recently used one on a plane to avoid germs. Artist Ariana Grande was photographed wearing a mouth mask in New York. According to some, celebrities like BTS wearing face masks only adds to the trend.

“Celebrities, performers, opera singers, and frequent travelers have been seen in masks to protect wellness [and voice], and this certainly makes masking normalized,” Vogmask’s Wendover Brown said in an interview with South China Morning Post. Why did the BTS boys start wearing face masks in the first place?

BTS | Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Why do some K-pop stars wear face masks?

There are a few possible reasons why most people believe BTS wears face masks. The first, of course, is privacy. If the boys are traveling or walking out in public, they might not want to be recognized by their fans. The second theory is for health reasons. As singers and rappers, part of their job as musicians is to use their voice. If they get sick, they cannot perform to the best of their ability. There’s also the concern of pollution in countries like China, which could, in turn, affect their health.

The third reason, and probably the least important factor, is fashion. According to some sources, wearing face masks in countries like Japan and China it is so commonplace that it’s almost trendy. Some women wear masks in public if they aren’t wearing makeup, but don’t want people to see their bare face. Although BTS is from South Korea, they frequently wear these face masks for protection in other countries, even the United States. The boys or their management have not commented on why the BTS members wear face masks out in public.

Music by BTS, including Map of the Soul: Persona, is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and most streaming platforms.