The Classic Sunglasses You Need Now

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The Classic Sunglasses You Need Now

Words by Mr Shane C Kurup

28 March 2017

Three timeless shapes to see you through this summer, and many to come.

Now the sun has finally decided to make an appearance, it’s time you stopped squinting and put some sunglasses on. Did you know that your eyeballs can actually get sunburnt? Photokeratitis – to use the correct medical term – can be brought on by too much UV exposure, and can also lead to macular (the central part of the retina) degeneration and cataracts. Ouch. Clearly, wearing shades isn’t just a question of vanity. Health warnings aside, we’d recommend investing in a pair of sunglasses that will stand the test of time, so here are three styles which you’ll be wearing for years to come (providing you don’t lose them, of course).

Whether you’re a fan of Top Gun’s testosterone-fuelled antics and flyboy jumpsuits or not, you’ve got to hand it to Messrs Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer for cementing the enduring appeal of aviators. Like so much in menswear, the origin of the design is rooted in the armed forces. In 1929, US Army General John A McCready approached optical firm Bausch + Lomb to create a pair of glasses to protect Air Force pilots from the headache-inducing glare found at altitude. The signature teardrop-shaped lenses took their cue from the flying goggles of the period, shielding the entire eye area, while still providing a clear field of vision. Since the release of the machismo-heavy flick in 1986, they’ve never really fallen out of favour – let’s face it, who doesn’t want to look like an off-duty fighter pilot?

Some fashion historians cite Roman Emperor Nero as the pioneer of sun opticals, due to his supposed habit of watching gladiatorial combats through polished emeralds, while others believe the credit lies with lands further east. Documents from 12th-century China describe imperial court officials wearing spectacle-like accessories made from smoky quartz, to prevent any betrayal of their thoughts as they passed judgement, or simply block out the glare. Whatever the case, we know that the earliest sunglasses had a circular profile, and round frames remained dominant until the 1950s. Largely due to Mr John Lennon’s fondness for the shape, they saw another surge in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. With their idiosyncratic, bookish charm, they’re never going to be a bad investment.

If there’s one style of sunglasses that truly deserves the much over-used accolade “timeless”, it’s the Wayfarer. Created in 1952 at Ray-Ban by optical engineer Mr Raymond Stegeman, the style’s clean-lines reflect the fuss-free modernism of post-war design and it has weathered decades of shifting changes in taste. Avid fans of the Wayfarer include Messrs Ryan Gosling, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and James Franco. In fact, the sales department at Ray-Ban probably have most of Hollywood to thank for their steadfast popularity. With their minimalist classic black shade, this pair is the ideal companion for, well – just about anything really.

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