Fashions come and go and the trends of contemporary design are in one week and out the next. As consumers it’s impossible to keep abreast of what’s hot and what’s not.
Oh yes, fashion’s a fickle thing. But if one fashion appendage has consistently epitomised an enduring legacy of chic, style and occasional uber coolness, it’s a pair of sunglasses.
Worn by models, film stars, footballers, politicians, pop stars and, erm, John Prescott, people in the public eye have all tried to add gravitas and coolness to their image with a pair of well-adorned sexy sun specs.
On the right person, they can have a slightly intimidating effect too, implying power, prestige and mystique. Although you’ve got to question someone who wears them all day, every day, indoors and out.
Wearing sunglasses have deeper and more significant social and personality connotations too, if you want to get all psychoanalytic about it.
The eyes might be the window to the soul, but if you’re a celebrity cultivating a brooding or sensual image, sometimes you can’t even see them.
So, to paraphrase Dr Who, “Shades are cool.” Have been and always will be. And here’s why.
Everyone’s favourite warbling Irishman, the U2 frontman certainly has a funky taste in eyewear, the Dubliner seemingly inseparable from a pair of cool shades.
Since he posed as a fictional character called ‘The Fly’ in 1992 for a photo shoot wearing a pair of large wraparound glasses, he’s always adorned a pair. In fact, he’s dubbed himself the ‘Imelda Marcos of Sunglasses’.
But why does he wear them all the time? According to the singer, his eyes have become very sensitive; if someone takes his photo, his right eye swells up and he sees the flash for the rest of the day.
Although the condition is medically known as photophobia, he admits he wears them as a combination of “part vanity, part privacy, part sensitivity.”
The inspiration for Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, the notoriously emotionally distant and ice-cold Wintour has been the English editor-in-chief of American Vogue since 1988.
It’s this terse and unfeeling aloofness and lack of sentimentality that manifests itself in her usual wearing of a pair of sunglasses, according to some critics.
They represent a detachment and hostility that embodies her ability to be unmoved and affected by most things. It’s an impenetrable image she’s cultivated well over the years and a look that, even on this undisputed ice queen, looks simultaneously funky and terrifying.
Either that, or she just likes wearing sunglasses.
When he’s not cruising for anonymous sex on Hampstead Heath or wallowing in the heady aromas of a freshly rolled joint, George Michael is also a man who looks particularly cool in a pair of shades.
During American Idol he wore a pair of Gucci 2785 sunglasses, Gucci of course being a brand symbol associated with elegance, class, luxury and wealth. He’s also partial to a pair of Ray-Bans too, a sunglasses brand that never seems to go out of fashion.
He’s usually a dapper dresser too, usually kitted out in well-tailored suits, which often go hand-in-hand with a top brand pair of shades.
The jazz world has been the subject of some mockery and rib-poking over the years (remember the Fast Show skit – self-important nonchalance, roll-neck sweaters and the to-camera catchphrase “Nice”?). But nobody has encapsulated the cool cat ethos and spirit of jazz with more hip and unflappable chic than Miles Davis.
He’s reportedly said to have worn them to avoid eye contact with “racists and squares”, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that not only is he a jazz icon but a man who made shades a symbol of edgy yet cool sophistication.
For me, the epitome of movie sunglasses cool is Will Smith (and Tommy Lee Jones, for that matter) in the Men in Black movies. Beating the scum of the universe is a tough job, so it’s imperative you do it in style.
The Ray-Ban wrap frames were given the uber-cool treatment when worn by the two of them, and they even got a mention in Smith’s Men In Black song (“..the black suits with the black Ray-Bans on”).
Predictably, sales for these sleek and cool face adornments went intergalactically stratospheric when the film was released.
So if you want to emulate the casual look of some of these celebrities, you don’t have to be a millionaire or spend a fortune – a pair of cheap Ray-Ban sunglasses look just as stylish and cool as a pair costing triple figures.
Can you think of any other celebrities who have made sunglasses look cool? Share in the comments.
Image by: Steve Kalinsky
Susannah Perez is a fashion and beauty expert who blogs for Discounted Sunglasses.