Why Does Kanye Wear a Mask in Public? It Might Have Something to Do With This Famous Story

One person suggested in a Reddit thread that the mask “gives him a sense of privacy and control over his image.”

Chris Barilla - Author

Feb. 21 2024, Updated 1:26 p.m. ET

Kanye West wearing a mask speaking at the 2022 BET Awards.
Source: Getty Images

The past few years of Kanye West's (aka Ye) life have been a rollercoaster of highs and lows. The result — some still love him, but many have built up significant hatred toward him. One of the few consistent elements in his life however, has been the artist's choice to don a mask that covers his entire head whenever he appears in public.

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It seems as though this trend has extended beyond Kanye himself, as collaborators on "Donda" have been seen out and about wearing similar masks, such as Playboi Carti and Lil Yachty. Even Kanye's ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, attended one his album previews wearing a custom Balenciaga full head mask. His current wife, Bianca Censori, has also been spotted donning a full-face mask.

So, why has Kanye opted for such a unique kind of mask every time he is in public? Here's what we know.

So, why does Kanye West wear a mask?

Kanye West wearing a mask with his wife, Bianca Censori.
Source: Getty Images

While the rest of the world at one point or another has donned protective face masks ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, Kanye seemingly has other reasons for covering his entire face over the last few years. The rapper hasn't publicly addressed his reasoning for doing so, but there are some plausible theories behind the decision.

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Die-hard Kanye fans likely recall that the "Donda" era is not the only time he has covered his face in public. When he released "Yeezus" in 2013, the rapper was frequently spotted in various diamond-encrusted and otherwise lavishly adorned face coverings, many of which were designed by famed label Maison Martin Margiela. This era has since gone down in history as a defining point for Kanye's style and stage presence.

Kanye West wearing a mask while performing.
Source: Getty Images
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During a 2014 concert at London's Wireless Festival, per Starcasm, Kanye explained why he was wearing masks at the time. He referenced other artists, such as Pharrell, stepping outside of rap into fashion and other creative ventures and effectively being told that they had to stay in their lane.

"That’s too much," he told fans during one of his famous on-stage rants. "Stay in your place ... Save face. Save face. That’s why I got this f---ing mask on, because I ain’t worried about saving face."

Over on Reddit, a thread from 2023 gave insight to a few plausible theories as to why Ye wears a mask. One person suggested that the mask “gives him a sense of privacy and control over his image” while another hinted that it’s because “it's hard” and shows that even with a mask concealing his entire face, everyone still knows who he is.

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One fan theory suggests that Kanye is wearing the masks to pay homage to a famous short story.

According to Twitter user @weallarewater, one theory behind why Kanye wears masks, particularly during the "Donda" rollout could be as an homage to a famous Nathaniel Hawthorne short story titled "The Minister's Black Veil."

In the story, a clergyman decides to don a black veil after coming face-to-face with his own sins, repentance, and morality. He openly wears the veil in public, preaching sermons and living day to day while never removing it in front of anyone, even on his death bed.

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The connection being drawn here is fairly plausible given the path that the artist has gone down over the last few years. With a renewed focus on making religious music (à la his "Sunday Service"), becoming closer to God, and effectively distancing himself from his past transgressions, Kanye seemingly aligns with that of the main character of the short story. By wearing his "sins" in the form of a veil, he is theoretically recognizing and making amends with them.

This is furthered even more by the notion that the veil was donned in the story directly after its protagonist dealt with the repercussions of some serious relationship strife. This is something that Kanye too has faced publicly with Kim ever since the news of their divorce broke in early 2021.

Nonetheless, Kanye has remained tight-lipped regarding his reasoning for masking up, and it is likely that fans may never have a concrete answer.

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