Paintball masks have become more sophisticated over time.
The sport of paintball, in which participants fire paint at high speeds from marker guns, can be dangerous for players who aren’t adequately protected. Paintball masks in the 21st century cover fully the faces of paintball players, typically incorporating goggles as well as material that protects the mouth, nose and ears. The sport hasn’t always used such masks however, and these protective garments have evolved since paintball’s origins in the early 1980s.
Role of Masks
Paintball masks have an important function within the sport, being protective measures designed to protect players from injury. During a paintball game, participants are struck by pellets shot at high speeds from guns. One of these pellets can be enough to cause bruising if it strikes unprotected skin. In a worst case scenario, a pellet can leave lasting damage to facial skin, and even cause blindness if it strikes a person in the eye. Players are thus required to wear face masks at all times during paintball games, and in the 21st century, mask manufacturers still aim to increase mask safety with new products.
In the Beginning
The first recorded paintball game took place in 1981, and the hobby began to gradually expand within the United States and amongst the populations of other countries following that game. In its infancy, the paintball hobby had few of the rules and protocols that the vast majority of clubs and individual players expect in the 21st century. Originally, paintball masks weren’t available, but as the number of injuries that occurred due to paint pellets rose, players realized eye protection was needed. Players thus started to wear safety glasses such as those used by engineers and metal workers, but these didn’t protect the rest of the face.
Full Face Masks
Since safety glasses didn’t protect all of the face, players quickly realized that they’d end up with facial scarring unless they took steps to ensure more coverage. Players in the middle of the 1980s thus began to wear ski masks, forms of cloth headgear that were coupled with safety glasses, and offered more in the way of protection since they covered all of the face. Full face coverage became mandatory in the early 1990s, as insurance companies refused to cover paintball players otherwise, as the Scuba Toys website notes; previous to this, players could still opt for only eye protection if they desired.
Evolution of Masks
As the years went on, paintball players began to expect more from their masks. Safety is still paramount in the 21st century, but the construction of masks has changed. The basic paintball mask participants rent from paintball organizations is made of neoprene foam, while some individuals prefer to purchase open cell foam masks for the comfort these afford. The goggles used by 21st century masks often have fog-resistance properties that help prevent obscured vision during play.