Richard Merkin, who was known for his art, as well as his flamboyant sense of style, has this quote I love. In talking with The Daily News Record in 1986, he said: “Dressing, like painting, should have a residual stability, plus punctuation and surprise. Somewhere, like in Krazy Kat, you’ve got to throw the brick.”
That’s how I feel about sunglasses nowadays. While you’ll rarely go wrong with the classics, eyewear can be a great opportunity to express some real personality. Especially if you, like me, favor more conservative pieces elsewhere. Ray Ban’s Wayfarers and aviators have been popular for decades because they flatter almost everyone, but with a standard navy suit or even a sport coat, they can also make you look like a G-Man (or worse, a Blues Brother). Searching for something more unique – that both fits your face and sense of style – takes work, but it also pays off.
One of the best starting points is to play with color. Instead of something in black, consider eyewear with light brown, faux-tortoiseshell, stone gray, or even clear colored frames. There are a million companies nowadays that make your standard sunglasses with the keyhole-shaped gap between the bridge and nose pads. Almost any of them would work with everything from tailored clothing to casualwear. Don’t get too caught in worrying if the style “fits.” Andy Warhol can be seen above wearing a thinner pair of sunglasses with a thick and heavy motorcycle jacket. Sometimes contrast is the point.
If you want to play within an aesthetic, think of how style has evolved over the decades. Slightly squared off shapes can be a hip way to accessorize a 1960s-inspired suit. Thinner, slightly oversized sunglasses with wire frames can express the sleaziness of the ‘70s. Rounder oversized sunglasses can feel very ‘90s and early-aughts. Allyn Scura is a great website if you want to explore different decades and their eyewear styles (each frame is described by era in the product description). Figure out which decade your closet is most inspired by and go from there.
Some Other Places to Check Out
- If you have some coin to spend, I like Lesca, Nackymade, Garrett Leight, Oliver Peoples, Moscot, David Kind, and Robert Marc. Our friend Kyle wears some great eyewear (we’ve featured him in the past). He tells us his sunglasses include Oliver Peoples’ MP-2s, Moscot’s Miltzens in crystal, and Moscot’s Shtarkers with brown gradient lenses. You can see him wearing some of those on his Instagram.
- For something that won’t break the bank, Warby Parker, Classic Specs, and Kent Wang are solid go-tos. As Pete noted in his review, Kent Wang’s $55 frames are a “fantastic middle ground between $200+ shades and the shrugging compromise that is buying sunglasses at CVS.” The bright faux-tortiseshell color here makes these stand out, while the subdued shape is easy to wear.
- For something versatile, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of these thinner frames from Lunettes Kollektion. Mine are in a light toffee brown, which is sold out, but the tortoise color at No Man Walks Alone is pretty close. I find they work with everything from sport coats to workwear to more contemporary styled casualwear. They are on the smaller side, however, so be aware. For something similar, but slightly larger, try Oliver Peoples’ Finley Esq.
- For more browsing, check your local shops (especially those carrying vintage eyewear). A lot of this is personal, so it helps to be able to try on a wide selection of options. If you don’t have anything nearby, you can browse online at End, Need Supply, and Mr. Porter. They have a huge range of sunglasses, a lot of which looks great.