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The Tribute

The Men Who Wore Sunglasses Best

A staple summer accessory, as worn by our favourite style icons

  • Mr Robert Redford in Three Days Of The Condor, 1975. Photograph by Getty Images

Choosing sunglasses can be a tricky business. Having a preferred style – aviators, D-frames, Ray-Bans – is all very well, but if they don’t suit your face shape, there goes your frame game. To provide some inspiration, we’ve looked to iconic shades-wearers, from Mr Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair to Sir Mick Jagger on tour in the US. Read on to identify the right sunglasses for you. 


Mr Jack Nicholson

  • Mr Jack Nicholson, St Tropez, 1976. Photograph by REX Shutterstock

When he’s not starring in Oscar-winning movies, Mr Jack Nicholson is living his life behind polarised eyewear. “With my sunglasses on, I’m Jack Nicholson,” the 80-year-old actor said two decades ago. “Without them, I’m fat and 60.” Who can argue with that? A good pair of sunglasses can be transformative, elevating the most normcore of outfits to new heights. On the French Riviera in 1976, he opted for clear acetate, universally flattering D-shape frames. They’re an informed style choice, with bonus points for the polarised blue lenses, which ensure clear vision no matter how strong the sun. These should be worn with a crisp striped shirt, as demonstrated by Mr Nicholson, or with a Breton tee by A.P.C.

Try these

  • Barton Perreira Byron D-Frame Acetate Optical Glasses with Clip-On UV Lenses

  • Cutler and Gross D-Frame Acetate Sunglasses



Mr Anthony Perkins

  • Mr Anthony Perkins, Los Angeles, 1959. Photograph by Mr Sid Avery/mptvimages.com

Mr Anthony Perkins is best known for portraying gawky, neurotic young men on the big screen, the most memorable of them being Norman Bates, the murderous cross-dressing motel-keeper in Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho (1960). Off screen, he joined a coterie of trend-setting Hollywood actors, which included Messrs Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, who championed the Ivy League style of the American East Coast elite. Note how he’s offset the attendant preppiness with rolled-up sleeves and large, round-frame sunglasses, also favoured by Messrs Andy Warhol and Alain Delon, for added rebelliousness. These frames suit most face shapes and work with both smart and casual attire. This pair by Saint Laurent will add a retro edge to your summer outfits.

Try these

  • Saint Laurent Classic 161 Slim Round-Frame Acetate Sunglasses

  • Moscot Grunya Round-Frame Acetate Sunglasses



Mr Warren Beatty

  • Mr Warren Beatty, Stockholm, 1975. Photograph by Imagno/TopFoto

Ruffled shirts, big hair, man-cleavage and clanging gold chains… Mr Hal Ashby’s movie Shampoo (1975) perfectly encapsulates 1970s style. It was the Magic Mike of its day and the hip-thrusting Mr Warren Beatty was its Mr Channing Tatum. It was a strong look that cemented his reputation as a ladykiller, on screen at least. These brow-line glasses with square lenses were typical of the period, but are enjoying a renaissance this summer, courtesy of Gucci, which featured impossible-to-ignore gold statement specs on its runway. What’s the end game? They add definition to rounder or oval face shapes and look strong with sharp tailoring or denim. Invest in a pair by Thom Browne for some real specs appeal.

Try these

  • Thom Browne Square-Frame Aviator-Style Gold-Tone Sunglasses

  • Prada Square-Frame Silver-Tone Sunglasses



Mr Cary Grant

  • Mr Cary Grant and Ms Eva Marie Saint in North By Northwest, 1959. Photograph by mptvimages.com

The perfectly coiffed and impeccably dressed Mr Cary Grant firmly believed that clothes maketh the man. His suits were always a cut above, tailor-made by Schiaparelli in Rome or Alfred Dunhill in London. He once stated that “simplicity, to me, has always been the essence of good taste”, adding that he favoured the clothes of a “well-dressed, sophisticated chap”. Just look at him here, the epitome of sophistication in a simple double-breasted grey suit and tortoiseshell sunglasses on the set of North By Northwest (1959), opposite his co-star Ms Eva Marie Saint. The chunky frame complements his bronzed complexion, while the panto style works well with his chiselled features. Invest in a pair by Oliver Peoples or Illesteva to pep up your summer tailoring.

Try these

  • Illesteva Leonard Round-Frame Tortoiseshell Acetate Sunglasses

  • Gucci Round-Frame Tortoiseshell Acetate and Titanium Sunglasses



Sir Mick Jagger

  • Sir Mick Jagger on tour, 1975. Photograph by Mr Michael Putland/Getty Images

Like many items of menswear – trench coats, bomber jackets, desert boots – aviator sunglasses have a military origin. In 1929, General John McCready challenged optical firm Bausch + Lomb to create a pair of sunglasses that would protect US Air Force pilots from the headache-inducing glare of the sun above the clouds. Their journey from jet stream to mainstream can be attributed to their appropriation by rock stars and actors in the 1970s (and Mr Tom Cruise in 1986’s Top Gun). Here, Sir Mick Jagger wears them on the Rolling Stones’ Tour of the Americas in 1975. Are they hiding a multitude of sins from the night before? Probably.

Try these

  • Berluti + Oliver Peoples Conduit St Aviator-Style Gold-Tone and Acetate Polarised Sunglasses

  • TOM FORD Cliff Aviator-Style Metal Polarised Sunglasses



Mr Steve McQueen

  • Mr Steve McQueen and Ms Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968. Photograph by mptvimages.com

Mr Steve McQueen played one of cinema’s top five best-dressed anti-heroes in Mr Norman Jewison’s movie The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). As debonair businessman Thomas Crown, whose plan to rob a bank is foiled by an equally glamorous Ms Faye Dunaway, he sets a high sartorial bar for the big screen. Featuring a wardrobe of structured British-cut suits, a vintage Jaeger LeCoultre Memovox watch, not to mention a Ferrari 275 GTS/4 NART Spider and a Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce, it is arguably one of the most stylish films of all time. Mr McQueen’s Persol 714 sunglasses were auctioned in 2006 for a cool $70,200 (£55,396).

Try these

  • Persol 714 Folding D-Frame Tortoiseshell Acetate Sunglasses

  • Kingsman + Cutler and Gross D-Frame Acetate and Silver-Tone Sunglasses

The men featured in this story are not associated with and do not endorse MR PORTER or the products shown