Sunglasses As An Extension of Character

Sunglasses do more for your face than just protect your eyes; they give you a new dimension. Rarely finding myself without a pair on hand, even in these chilly and grey days, if I see the slightest hint of sun peeking from the clouds, my eyes are shielded. I’m now at the point where I feel exposed without them. They can be more than just a fashion accessory, they can be (if done right) extensions of someone's character.  Think of a particular pair of sunglasses like a particular brand of cigarettes to a smoker. You can’t have anything, you need to go around trying out different variations before settling on The One. I know certain people who only smoke Vogue cigarettes and others who only like orange tints in their shades. These are little quirks, but these are the things that separates a person from an individual. 

I know someone who thinks that since you can’t read someone's eyes through sunglasses they make for an equalizer in this world. You can’t necessarily tell who’s a nice person and who’s not so he just assumes that everyone is an asshole until proven otherwise.

Think of Marcello Rubini in La Dolce Vita for example. Wearing his Persol’s day and night in a cold manner, he shuts out the rest of the world, only removing the dark frames from his face for moments of fragile vulnerability. The feelings and thoughts someone can gauge from behind your eyes is business which Marcello wouldn’t share with just anyone. Outside of cinema, photographer Francis Wolff has multiple pictures of jazz drummer Max Roach in rehearsal wearing sunglasses indoors. In each picture, you can see through body language that Roach is incredibly focused on his music. It’s hard to deny that he looks cool as anything, but the glasses give Roach an aloofness; pushing Wolff- and by extension, us-  to one side as he puts his energy and attention on the rhythm. Even in 12th century China, they used flat planes of smoked quartz to protect their eyes from the sun's glare, but interestingly they were also used by judges so as to not reveal the expressions on their face during court proceedings. 

Writer Edith Zimmerman makes a case in The Cut against sunglasses, suggesting that we “that we wear them too much, socially” and that we move to treating sunglasses the way we do our phones; “something to indulge in while solitary but to put away when in conversation”. I can be quite a social and welcoming individual, so to an extent I agree with her from an etiquette standpoint. However I don’t like being bothered when walking around town. Past experience dictates that most people on the street who try to make eye contact rarely want to have a conversation talk. They’re trying to get me to sign up to something or download their mixtape. So part of the reason I insist on always carrying a pair is that they make for a great distancing tool. (Side note: In these days of mask wearing, especially, I find myself looking almost like the Invisible Man. Which I think is kinda cool.)

Whilst they may hide your eyes however, shades can still be surprisingly expressive and even fun! Think of the variety of shapes available to you, not to mention the multiple variations of colour and material. You can have as many as you like, suiting all kinds of occasions, saying something different each time. Being a devotee of round sunglasses- think Barton Fink as opposed to Leon the Professional- I go from small delicate tortoiseshell pieces that merely compliment my face to statement chunky rimmed black ones ala Corbusier that when worn with a smile are incredibly inviting.  In essence, experiment with the variety that’s available to you from numerous quality makers until you find The Ones that you will inevitably someday leave on a bus/train/in a cab.

Finally, we should briefly talk about the saying, or rule,  that you shouldn’t wear sunglasses inside.  Whilst there’s some truth to the fact that it does make you appear self important, honestly, no one really cares if you’re still wearing a pair while ordering coffee. If you’re at a sit down with business colleagues or family then by all means, take them off. Just because you’ve found the right pair of sunglasses does not mean you can go around acting like Anna Wintour. The same rule applies to night time wearing. You’re not, and never will be, Jack Nicholson. 

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