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Why does Jason wear a hockey mask in the Friday the 13th movies?

Jason Voorhees wears his iconic mask through most of the Friday the 13th movies, but the reason why isn't as simple as you might think for a slasher icon.

Jason Voorhees in front of a sign for Camp Crystal Lake in the Friday the 13th movies

In terms of horror iconography, it doesn’t get much more recognizable than Jason’s mask. The killer of the Friday the 13th franchise has had his face hidden behind hockey protection for decades now, to the point it’s synonymous with not only him, but the genre as a whole.

Friday the 13th offers plenty of chills and thrills for fans of a good mutilation. Even when watching the Friday the 13th movies in order, though, you probably aren’t fully sure why he keeps it on. He’s one of the best horror movie killers, but there are some real unanswered questions about his general existence.

That’s because, for the star of some of the best slasher movies ever, Jason Voorhees has been handled extremely inconsistently. I mean, at first his mom is actually the murderer, and nine installments later he’s in space freezing people to death. But I digress, there’s no simple explanation for Jason’s mask, though we have some clues.

The first is in how he arrives upon the face covering. In Friday the 13th Part 3, Jason kills a young man named Shelly (Larry Zerner), who’s wearing the mask. After the murder, Jason picks up the mask for himself before heading out to slaughter more victims.

His face alteration doesn’t get addressed again until the terrible 2009 reboot, where a Crystal Lake camp counselor gets killed for it. Honestly though, less said about that the better. Neither depiction ever has anyone stop to dissect what’s drawing one of the best movie villains to hockey gear to complete his outfit, but we can infer some deeper meaning.

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Jason was born with physical disfigurement, one of the main reasons he gets bullied so badly at Crystal Lake. In his undead state, where he’s driven to kill those who wronged him, it stands to reason that some self-consciousness lingers amid all the rage.

Jason runs on pure base desire, fueled by absolute anger. That’s the engine that makes his films so cathartic. But within his rampage lies the beating heart of a boy who lives with profound insecurity. Jason can’t let anyone lay eyes on the real him, because he’s internalized all their cruelty.

Don’t let the machete fool you, Jason really just needs a hug. Good luck getting close enough, though! If you want to learn about some his peers, check out our breakdowns of Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger, alongside our guides on how to watch the Halloween movies in order and the best zombie movies. We also have new movies and best movies lists, and a guide on Wednesday season 2, if you’d like something lighter.