The Best New Sunglasses
Our global round-up including Illesteva, Persol and Mykita
One Friday afternoon not too long ago, we ordered in 50 pairs of sunglasses from the warehouse, put a full-length mirror up against the wall, cracked open a few beers and spent a couple of hours trying them all on. That’s just how we roll at MR PORTER. Before you start to question our professional integrity, though, let it be known that this was all in the name of research.
There’s nothing that alters your persona quite as drastically as a pair of shades. This, combined with the fact that there’s an embarrassment of choice out there – the 50 frames that we tried represent less than a third of the options available on MR PORTER – means that it’s important that you take some time to select the pair that are right for you.
We know that you’re all pressed for time and, unlike us, you might not have the opportunity to spend your working day trying on sunglasses. So, to make your lives considerably simpler, we’ve highlighted six of our personal favourites. This edit covers a range of brands, colours, shapes and sizes. And if you don’t see anything you like, don’t worry. There are 140 or so more to peruse here.
The Leonard is Illesteva’s most popular model, a distinctive round-framed style that really sums up the five-year-old New York brand’s aesthetic: bold, a little bit loud and at once classic while thoroughly modern. The blond acetate frame adds a further point of difference and looks particularly good against darker skin. A word of warning: these are a unisex design so be careful. The staff at MR PORTER have collectively lost at least half a dozen pairs to covetous girlfriends and/ or sisters.
If you struggle to find frames big enough for you (as a rule of thumb, they should be wider than the widest part of your face), then Thierry Lasry will be a revelation. With a range of sunglasses that are big without being comically large, this is hands-down the best brand we’ve found so far for men with larger, oval-shaped faces. It’s hardly a surprise that the Frenchman has managed to produce such an accomplished range of eyewear: born to an optician and a designer, Mr Thierry Lasry’s fate was written in the stars. Our particular favourite is the Zomby model, shown here in black and grey striped acetate.
With the arbiter of the zeitgeist himself, Mr Hedi Slimane, at the helm, Saint Laurent has gone from strength to strength in recent seasons, winning itself a reputation for ahead-of-the-curve cool. Where this Paris-by-way-of-LA designer goes, others are sure to follow. That’s not to say that it doesn’t do a fine line in classic style, though. Take these sunglasses: the “browline” design has a retro feel (it had a moment in the early 1960s and again in the late 1980s), but it’s brought up to date with olive-brown acetate frames and brown lenses (a Saint Laurent signature). Guaranteed for this summer and beyond.
That these gold and black frames from the Berlin-based brand Mykita are good-looking is plain to see. But what you won’t necessarily notice about them – until you pick them up, at least – is just how incredibly delicate they are. They make other sunglasses feel positively ungainly. While it can feel at times as if you’re about to break them, the flexibility of the stainless steel actually makes them more resistant than chunkier, more rigid frames. In a market that often seems dominated by retro-inspired styles, we give kudos to Mykita for pushing things forward.
If you’re the kind of guy who likes his sunglasses to come with a romantic backstory, then L.G.R is the brand for you. It was founded by Mr Luca Gnecchi Ruscone, whose grandfather, Mr Raffaello Bini, once owned a shoe factory in Asmara, Eritrea. In the mid-1970s, the factory and all its contents were seized in the Ethiopian War for Independence, and Mr Bini was left with nothing but a warehouse of personal effects. It was while helping his grandfather clear out this warehouse in 2006 that Mr Ruscone happened upon a crate of vintage sunglasses that had been imported from Italy some 70 years before. He was inspired to recreate them, and L.G.R was born. Our favourites from the current collection are these classic D-frame shades, made with icy-cool clear acetate frames and mirrored blue lenses. If the White Walkers from Game of Thrones wore sunglasses, we’d put our money on them wearing these.
Think Persol, think Mr Steve McQueen. So deep is the connection between the Italian sunglasses brand and the American King of Cool that a pair of his old sunglasses were auctioned off in 2006 for approximately $70,000. The model he favoured was the PO714SM, a much chunkier and more retro shape than the round-framed design that we’ve picked out – but they share many of the same design elements, from the arrowed metal inserts on the hinge to the classic light-brown tortoiseshell acetate. This particular model is from the brand’s Typewriter collection and is designed in collaboration with novelist Mr Bret Easton Ellis.