Clothes and accessories are typically viewed as functional items first – with style being a close second priority. After all, there’s nothing stylish about fishing gear, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be doing this in a bespoke suit. However, of all the items that balance practical use with stylish flair, sunglasses are undoubtedly the cream of the crop.
With the internet age providing so many versions, options, and alternatives, the options can be overwhelming. So, we’re here to give you the lowdown on the lenses, the specs on the specs, and to find focus among the glare.
We’ll start off with a few general tips about sunglasses and then walk you through the four essential styles you need to know about. And if you’re an eager beaver, don’t forget about the chapters feature so that you can skip ahead to the part you want to know about.
Tip 1: Don’t Go For Oversize
The oversized trend is just that – a trend. Sunglasses that look like satellite dishes will go in and out with the times, and they’re rarely the same when they come back into fashion. Leaving you with a pair of sunglasses that will turn heads for the wrong reasons. And so, you’ll be far better served by investing in a pair that is the right size for you.
A Timeless Investment
Investing in a properly sized pair will far better serve you in the long run.
We all have different face shapes; we all have different head sizes, too. So, if you’re not sure where to get started with the fit of your frames, we’ve got you covered in this guide.
The best part of this tip is that it applies to all the styles we’ve got lined up for you today. Pick any one of the upcoming frames in a size that fits your face, and you’ll look stylish forever.
Tip 2: Prioritize Protection
Style is good, but UV protection is better. No one wants Wellington boots that are made of paper, and the same can be said here. If you’re choosing to wear sunglasses, it’s for a practical reason. Even if Preston is having one of his Men In Black moments, he’s using the best protection for his eyes.
Even though there’s a difference between a pair of polarized lenses and have high UV protection, your goal in choosing sunglasses should first be to get the protection you need before focusing on how the frames look.
Tip 3: Consider Your Options
If you require corrective lenses, you have several options available outside of wearing contact lenses and then adding sunglasses. You can get a pair of sunglasses made up in your prescription, separate from your clear glasses. This is a great option if you like several different styles of eyewear, and you want a distinctive frame to separate the differences between uses.
There’s also the ability to get reactive photochromic lenses in your everyday frames. These are often referred to as “transition lenses,” though, technically, Transitions is a brand name. It’s a rather convenient option as under sunlight, your everyday specs will become protective lenses.
You can also get glasses that are designed to be worn with clip-on sunglasses. I know the 80s kind of gave clip-on sunglasses a bad name, but I promise you, the type of clip-on sunglasses I’m talking about aren’t anything like that. They’re uniquely stylish and have a great vintage look.
Tip 4: Avoid The Oakleys
This should go without saying but if you love classic style, stay away from Oakleys. Actually, if you love any style, stay away from these. I totally get that the right tool for the job when it comes to a spin down the Alps, but you sure ain’t shredding snow at a mid-July barbecue.
To all the dads out there, we know you don’t mean any harm. Just know that we want you to look as cool as you think you are.
With that in mind, here’s your first essential style of sunglasses.
This one should come as no surprise as, to many, it’s the iconic choice in sunglasses. With this unique teardrop frame, a pair of aviators conjures up images of cool. If you enjoy a classically casual look, opt for a pair with a wire frame. We suggest sticking to a silver-tone metal frame and matching the lenses with equally cool tone color. Greens, blues, and grays are all great choices here.
In our experience, aviators in a wireframe and gold tones don’t suit as many skin tones due to their warm base color. It can also be a bold choice due to negative connotations of perceived wealth and wearing gold. So, if you decide to go for this colorway, ensure you keep the rest of your outfit looking simple and tasteful, therefore, allowing the sunglasses to be the statement.
As we previously mentioned, wireframe aviators are a classic style for casual outfits. This is the formality spectrum where this configuration really shines. It allows you to indulge in a more relaxed aesthetic. However, this also means that wireframe aviators will look out of place with a dressier ensemble.
So, if you like the distinctive teardrop shape but wear more structured and formal clothing, our suggestion is to look for a pair of aviators with a horn or acetate frame – just like Steve McQueen’s favorite Persols.
It’s not just the classic association of tailoring and tortoiseshell that looks great here; it’s that the frames have a little more heft and authority to them. It’s why the Kingsman agents’ glasses work as well as they do.
With a pair of aviators like these, you’ll want to harmonize with the natural colors found in the frame, so choose brown or green tones for the lenses. If you prefer cooler colors like blues or grays, then opt for a pair with a darker acetate.
As the general rule of thumb for aviators, stay clear of mirror lenses. They’re a nuisance to keep clean and carry a certain feeling of being bargain bin sunglasses. You’re definitely worth more than that.
Our next style of sunglasses is another classic, the wayfarer. With this design patented in 1953, the Wayfarer is characterized by its angular shape and sharp image, somewhere between a cat eye and a rectangular frame. A pair of sunglasses in the Wayfarer design are timeless as well as extremely wearable by any face shape.
Originally, this style of sunglasses was designed to move people away from the more commonly worn wireframe sunglasses. But, nowadays, we get to enjoy a healthy mix of options available in the market.
With the wayfarer being designed by a wide variety of sunglass specialists, you’re bound to find the style that you love. For many, Ray-Bans are still the originals for Wayfarer sunglasses. Through changing trends, Ray-Ban has been able to maintain their position as one of the leading providers of sunglasses. And even if they are also known for their aviator frames, we’d certainly consider the wayfarer that acts as the feather on the cap for Ray-Ban.
Models include a folding wayfarer perfect for those on the go, a modern interpretation of the Wayfarer with a lighter design, and, of course, the classic wayfarer frame.
Unlike a pair of aviators, you won’t need to focus on finding a separate pair for your casual and formal attire. Truly, versatility is the beauty of the wayfarer, being equally at home with a wide range of formalities.
As a great example of this, we turn to yet another on-screen spy, James Bond, and how he’s able to wear Wayfarer is both relaxed and ready for business. If you decide the wayfarer is for you, there are a couple things to keep in mind to make sure you always look your best.
2.A. Stick to a dark frame
With the popularity of this style, it’s possible to find Wayfarers in a wide variety of colors. But, we strongly recommend skipping the neon brightness for something far more tasteful – with a classic tortoiseshell or a black frame being excellent choices.
2.B. Harmonize the lens choice
Our next point is pretty much the same rule as with the aviators, but it’s a good rule, and we’re gonna say it again. Basically, go for a complementary color that works with your frame color, not against it. And remember, you’ll never go wrong with a classic green tint.
Up next is the style that carries a bit of a vintage feel without ever looking out of style. It’s the clubmaster. They’re also known as “browline” frames, and it’s easy to see why. They are effectively like a two-tone frame, with a pronounced difference between the bottom wire frame that holds the lenses and the top portion that provides a lot of the shape, with this portion sitting at the brow line. See? It all makes sense.
Clubmaster style is very evocative of a retro age. Think of times like the 50s and 60s – the Mad Men era, if you will. So, what makes things interesting is the clubmaster, as sunglasses is relatively a new thing.
A Retro Classic
The Clubmaster gives a retro aesthetic but has a timeless appeal. It gives an ensemble a somewhat more laidback vibe.
The style was first invented in 1947 by Jack Rohrbach, the then vice president of eyewear manufacturer Shuron Ronsir. But, at this time, they were designed to be clear spectacles. It was in the 1980s, with the TV show Moonlighting that we see actor Bruce Willis wear a pair of these with tinted lenses that they first took off as sunglasses. So, it’s pretty incredible to think that even with less time on the sunglasses market that the Clubmaster is as popular as it is.
What makes this style so great is its ability to dress down an outfit. Whereas the Wayfarer looks good regardless of the occasion, a pair of Clubmasters brings a slightly more relaxed feel to an ensemble. This is because of the softer lines at the bottom of the frame and the unique balance that is achieved through the use of different materials.
Another curious element is the difference and appearance a clubmaster achieves when it’s worn as a pair of sunglasses. The original clear style might not work on all faces as the proportions of where your eyes sit within the frames need to be just right. Otherwise, the balance is completely thrown off. But, because the tinted lens obscures your eyes from onlookers, the clubmaster becomes universally wearable.
So, if you love the retro look but don’t suit the Clubmaster in a clear len s, I’d strongly recommend giving it a look as a pair of sunglasses. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.
Finally, a style of sunglasses that might be new to you in name, but I’m sure you’ve probably seen around. This particular style is known as the “Panto” frame. This one is particularly elegant, and I’m sure Preston will agree.
What makes it stand apart from the others is its elegance and its shape. The Panto frames take inspiration from all the other frame styles that we’ve discussed today. There are elements of the teardrop shape found in a pair of aviators, the potential for signature detailing like a pair of Wayfarers, and the unique wearability of the clubmasters.
The Panto frame isn’t as singularly distinctive as some of the other frames we’ve looked at today. For example, it’s possible to find a Panto frame with a flat top, and it’s possible to see the style with temples that are angled up or pointed down.
Regardless of the specific details, the defining feature of a Panto frame is that it’s neither square or round, and it certainly won’t feature the dramatic angles you’ll see in a Wayfarer. But, it also doesn’t conjure images of Harry Potter either. Did we just make a joke about magic there?
A great example of a Panto frame would be the one made famous by Matt Damon in the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley. As you can see, in this configuration as a pair of clear lens spectacles, the Panto frame blends a cool, preppy edge. The style only gets better when worn as a pair of sunglasses.
With his transition lenses, Preston’s regular glasses effectively become Panto-style in the sun. But, really, who better to demonstrate this than Cary Grant in 1959’s North by Northwest, where, with a crisp white shirt and sharp gray suit and tie, you can see how the Panto-style sunglasses suggest effortless sophistication.
Inspired by this very pair, luxury brand Oliver Peoples provides a pair of Panto frames in just this style called (rather helpfully) the “Cary Grant.” And it’s finished in a timeless, dark tortoiseshell with green tinted lenses. In case you need further persuasion, they also offer the Gregory Peck model, another Panto frame based on the glasses featured in 1962’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
For an alternative suggestion, we’d also recommend looking at New York-based Moscot. Their signature frame, Lemtosh, is a Panto-style that was developed shortly after the Second World War. It fits a variety of face shapes beautifully, and its popularity as a pair of optical glasses means it appears as a pair of full sunglasses and a clip-on style if you like that flexibility.
So, there we have it. Four essential styles of sunglasses as well as a few general sunglasses tips thrown in for good measure. Remember, we’re always looking out for you, and if you’re on the lookout for a new pair of protective eyewear, you’re guaranteed to look great in any of the styles we’ve suggested today. Perhaps you already own one of these styles, or maybe you’re inspired to try a new one.
What’s your favorite sunglasses style? Let us know in the comments!