Philadelphia’s new face covering ban: A contrast to Detroit’s ski mask culture

The Philadelphia City Council has recently passed a law banning full face coverings, including ski masks and balaclavas, in a wide range of public spaces, with a 13-2 vote favoring the ban. This new regulation, proposed by Ninth District Councilman Anthony Phillips, imposes a $250 fine for wearing such coverings in schools, recreation centers, daycares, parks, City-owned buildings, and on public transportation.

The bill describes prohibited masks as those covering the entire head and face, with openings only for eyes, mouth, or nose. This legislation aims to enhance public safety and clarity in public spaces.

In stark contrast, Detroit has embraced the ski mask as a symbol of resilience and rebranding, particularly among the city’s sports fans. This trend, widely recognized as the ‘pooh shiesty’ style, has gained popularity and become a part of Detroit’s identity, especially among supporters of the Detroit Lions NFL team. The movement was catalyzed by Lions safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who joined the team after leaving the Philadelphia Eagles.

Gardner-Johnson, known for his spirited leadership and connection with Detroit’s fan base, initiated the ski mask trend as a new tradition at Ford Field, starting with the Lions’ home game against the Seattle Seahawks. This was in response to the Lions’ impressive win against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, where Gardner-Johnson celebrated by wearing a ski mask in the locker room, a moment he shared on Instagram live.

The adoption of ski masks by Lions fans represents a significant cultural shift. It’s a departure from the “Same Old Lions” attitude, symbolizing a new era of tenacity and threat in the NFL. Gardner-Johnson’s promotion of this symbol aligns with General Manager Brad Holmes’ description of the Lions as ‘villains’, a stark contrast to the negative associations typically linked with ski masks. Instead of the former practice of wearing paper bags to games in a show of dismay or protest, fans now don ski masks to express solidarity and hope for a rejuvenated team.

The new Philadelphia legislation, which amends the “Public Spaces – Prohibited Conduct” section of the city’s code, also includes a harsher penalty for crimes committed while wearing such face coverings. A minimum fine of $2,000 is set for these offenses.

However, the law includes specific exceptions. It does not apply to individuals wearing traditional holiday costumes, participating in religious celebrations, requiring masks for occupational safety, involved in theatrical productions, protecting themselves from harsh weather during winter sports, or engaging in lawful First Amendment activities.


The differing attitudes of Philadelphia and Detroit towards ski masks paint a vivid picture of how the same item can take on entirely different meanings depending on where you are. In Philadelphia, the recent ban reflects a focus on public safety, casting ski masks in a more cautious light. Yet, just a few hundred miles away in Detroit, these same masks are embraced as a symbol of unity and pride among sports fans. It’s a classic tale of one city’s caution versus another’s celebration, showing just how varied the cultural tapestry of urban America can be.

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