Sunglasses are the ultimate personal accessory. Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s sleek bob and oversized dark glasses have been making a fashion statement for more than 40 years. Bono says his omnipresent blue-tinted shades are inspired by “part vanity, part privacy, part light sensitivity.” Replicas of Jackie Kennedy’s signature black glasses with pewter Greek key detailing are sold by the Smithsonian Store.
In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn slinked through Manhattan in cat-eye sunnies. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s yellow Ray-Ban Shooters had a “cigarette hole” above the nose bridge so he could steady his rifle. Steve McQueen, meanwhile, elevated coolness to Arctic heights with his collapsible Persols in The Thomas Crown Affair. The originals fetched $60,000 at auction, but you can buy the current version for $400.
You don’t have to be a celebrity to have it made in the shade. First and foremost, shop for lenses with 100-percent UVA and UVB protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Polarization reduces glare, which is super if you’re boating, fishing or skiing—and wrap-around lenses block out light and glare from the side.
Sunglasses are good for you in other ways, too. Wearing them reduces the risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and skin cancer around the eyes. They also guard against snow blindness, so UV rays reflecting off the snow don’t burn the corneas. Dark lenses also minimize headaches associated with sun glare, and slipping on shades will protect your eyes from dust, grit, sand and strong winds.
Krewe makes high-quality, uber-stylish sunglasses inspired by its New Orleans home base. They’re a celebrity fave, with such wearers as Beyoncé, David Byrne and Meghan Markle. Think retro cat eyes, slick aviators and preppy-hip rectangles. Each pair is made by hand in small batches, so none is precisely the same. The St. Louis frame’s bold metal bridge is an homage to the cast-iron balconies found in the French quarter. The matte oyster frames have the mottled, organic luster of natural shells. A second-chance warrantee offers free replacement for damaged sunglasses. $235.
They didn’t have protective eyewear in 1653, when Izaak Walton celebrated fishing in The Compleat Angler. Today’s anglers can reel in these Firehole sunglasses by Orvis, with polarized lenses that provide enhanced clarity of vision to spot elusive fish. Lenses are brinephobic— tech speak for repelling seawater—with an anti-reflective back coating. They look great, too. $119.
Horizon I makes unisex sunglasses for the sporting set. The Slope model’s gradients converge in the center, creating a look reminiscent of the Neo’s sunglasses in The Matrix movie trilogy. The curved lenses are distortion-free and provide 100 percent protection against UV rays, with anti-scratch and anti-reflection coatings for durability and to eliminate glare when the sun is behind you. The Slope includes three pairs of interchangeable lenses (gray, rose and clear) and a manufacturer’s lifetime warranty. $89.99.
Based in sleepy Watkinsville, Ga., family-owned Tifosi makes affordable, lightweight, shatterproof sunglasses that have become the leading brand in cycling. The Svago (Italian for fun) is ideal for fashionable athletes, with a no-slip fit. Tortoiseshell frames are teamed with brown polarized polycarbonate lenses that resist chips and breakage. Models with pale teal, black and crystal beige frames are available for a scant $25. $49.99.
In 1965, Dr. Bob Smith, an orthodontist and avowed ski bum, invented his own sealed, breathable thermal goggles so he could spend more time on the slopes. Smith’s Serpico 2 Slim sunglasses transport the wearer stylishly to the chalet. A pared-back version of the classic Serpico, this fresh take on the aviator style features adjustable nose pads and ChromaPop lenses that eliminate glare and promote clarity. $179.
She’s strong. She’s athletic. She’s feminine. Costa Del Mar’s Waterwoman is designed for active women who fish, paddle and enjoy making a splash. There are seven lens colors to choose from, ranging from blue (suggested for open, reflective water) to mirror (for activities in low light). Costa’s lightwave glass is 20 percent thinner and lighter than typical polarized lenses. $249.
Barton Perreira crafts glasses that fit like well-tailored clothing. Designer Patty Perreira is inspired by travel and her love of anything vintage. Her Vanguard design combines champagne-and-gold frames with emerald lenses for a dramatic twist. The ultra-lightweight frames are made of zylonite, a resin-based polymer plastic tumbled in stone for several days before it’s hand polished. Lenses are hand-dipped in small batches. $575.
Costa Del Mar’s Tico is a rowdy take on Costa Rica’s heritage of sportfishing. These sunnies sport an all-day wrap, with wide, chiseled temples to provide full coverage from the harshest sun. The technology includes vented nose pads, an integral hinge, and scratch-resistant polarized lenses with 100 percent UV protection. Create a custom pair by choosing your frame and lens colors. $269.