KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With COVID-19 shutting down much of the county this spring, dressing up for social events isn't a big priority.
Many weddings, graduations and proms are either canceled or postponed, prompting one local businessman to pivot his bow-tie business.
Jordan D. Williams owns Keefe Cravat, a company known for its handmade custom bow ties. Now, Williams is making handmade custom cloth face masks in attempt to keep his business afloat during the pandemic.
"I have six months out of the year that are successful and then when I have this pandemic that comes in the peak season, it blew my mind," Williams said.
He admits he was nervous about creating masks, but knew he needed to adjust and adapt.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended everyone wear a cloth mask in public, Williams got to work.
He uses a variety of materials — including denim, faux leather and cotton — providing a trendy look with a designer's touch.
However, Williams didn't realize how important customization would become until he got a call from one of his mentors. The man asked if he could make a mask that was "identifiable" by including the words "Grand Dad" on the front of it.
"He says, 'Well, Jordan, there are two types of people that tend to disguise themselves; those are gangsters and rich people,' and he said, 'I don't want to go into a grocery store, picking up eggs with a face mask on and being mistaken for a gangster,'" Williams said.
That mentor touched on a concern shared by many black men that face masks will lead to increased racial profiling, according to an NBC News report.
The request gave Williams a chance to not only be creative, but meet a demand.
"It began to resonate with me, because I wear the face masks and when I'm at the grocery store, when I'm going to the post office to drop orders off, I do sense this uncomfortable feeling when I see the security guard," Williams said. "Now, I'm in the process of thinking creatively, like, 'What does it look like to create identifiable masks?'"
Masks start at $32, which includes shipping, and must be hand-washed.