Whether you’re protecting your eyes from the sun or trying to conceal last night’s hangover, sunglasses are an essential part of your wardrobe. They can influence an entire look and channel the personalities that continue to be associated with certain styles. Although sunnies are some of the most trend-driven fashion items around, some designs have become eternal.
Here are the most iconic:
Introduced in the 1930s, aviators were first developed for pilots. The design was meant to encompass even one’s peripheral vision and the dark, tempered glass lenses helped achieve this. While the model was first developed by Bausch & Lomb (which later created the brand Ray-Ban), the aviator style has now become a staple of nearly every brand.
General Douglas MacArthur put aviators on the map. He was photographed wearing them as he waded to the shores of Palo, Leyte upon his return to the Philippines during the Second World War. As photos of the general wearing his favorite shades spread, so did the renown of the accessory. In pop culture, the aviator has been worn by Tom Cruise in Top Gun and Daniel Craig in Skyfall. It was also the trademark of Hunter S. Thompson, the renowned gonzo journalist and author.
But perhaps the most popular actor to ever sport the design is Johnny Depp, who wears his on and off the set. Though they go with practically any outfit, Depp’s blue-tinted aviators lend themselves well to his modern gypsy style, which he completes with a fedora, scarf, as well as cuffs and bracelets—a solid look for exploring the urban jungle.
Teashades are round, metal-rimmed glasses held up by pads mounted on a slim bridge. John Lennon was known for his teashades, turning them into standard hippie gear in the 70s. They weren’t too effective as shades but hid enough of the squinty or red-rimmed eyes that were the telltale signs of being high.
Aside from Lennon, Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne and The Who’s Roger Daltrey often wore them onstage. In the 90s, teashades were cool again when Liam Gallagher, the vocalist of Oasis, was almost always seen in a pair.
But it was Lennon who turned teashades iconic, so much so that they’re still commonly known as “John Lennon” glasses. He wore them with the countercultural threads of the time, and sported them in many album covers, including 1974’s Walls and Bridges, which shows him wearing at least four pairs all at once.
The Wayfarer, as acclaimed as the aviator, first came out in the 1950s. It revolutionized eyewear, employing plastic instead of metal for its frames. It was also James Dean’s sunglasses of choice, giving Wayfarers an aura of cool rebelliousness. Bob Dylan cemented the distinction.
The legendary musician, who occupies a distinguished place in folk-rock history with a career spanning half a century, wore Wayfarers in the recording studio early in his career. Those shades went well with the enigmatic persona he carefully cultivated from the start.
Even the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a tip of the hat to iconoclasts likely to wear Wayfarers. Who can forget Audrey Hepburn emerging from a taxi in the early morning New York gloom, masking the fun of an all-nighter with those sunglasses—giving her pearls, tiara, opera gloves, and little black dress a fetching edge?
Just proves Wayfarers are way cool any way you choose to wear them.
Wraparound sunglasses are defined by their wide, curving shape extending to the sides of the face. This offers more coverage than any other styles. It also suggests athleticism, as wraparounds are commonly worn by skiers, mountaineers, and racers.
A 1981 cover of Rolling Stone magazine featuring Yoko Ono in a pair of wraparounds helped cement the style in popular culture. She was often seen wearing a pair in public, turning the Carrera 5620 she favored into her signature look. Like her late husband John Lennon and his teashades, the Carrera wraparounds are still being referred to as the “Yoko Ono.”
Musician Stevie Wonder donned a pair of Carrera 5620s in the 1980s, which were similar to Ono’s, helping boost its popularity during the decade. Much later, Porsche Design reissued the 5620, naming it the p8479. Prince wore a pair of black p8479s in the 2013 Grammy Awards, complementing them with a hoodie.
During the disco era of bell-bottoms, close-fit-ted shirts, and big hair, oversized glasses ruled.
Elton John was the master of the oversized eyewear. For most of the 70s and the 80s, he pounded away on his piano wearing large sunglasses, making it his trademark. He rarely ever wore the same pair twice, and his vast col-lection included models with wings, hearts, and antennae. While his choices tend to be more muted these days, he is still pictured wearing a variety of eyewear.
When going with oversized designs, it’s best to err on the side of classic wear to avoid the hassle of trying to match your outfits with your glasses.
Industrial glasses were originally used as protection from the debris of the machine age. More akin to goggles, with wire mesh attached to the sides of the frame, they were manufac-tured by companies such as SANIGLAS and Wellsworth for use in the factories.
This style, however, has become a statement piece, particularly for those enamored of steampunk, a movement or fashion that fuses industrial-era aesthetics with speculative technology.
Thomas Dolby, a musician and producer who wrote the 80s hit, “She Blinded Me with Science,” embodied the style. Now regarded as one of the pioneers of the modern steampunk movement, Dolby’s sartorial preference consists of Neo-Victorian pieces worn with a pair of industrial glasses.
The use of this style isn’t limited to steampunk, though, and industrial glasses would look just as fitting with a vintage motorcycle jacket and a Roger Dubuis wristwatch. Even a simple jeans and shirt combination would work, with a pair of Marshall headphones slung on the neck for a day of hard travel.
This article originally appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 19 No 1 2015.
Photographs by Paul Del Rosario & Ian Castañares