The History of Sunglasses
Sunglass trends come and go (and come back around again), so take a tip from history and repeat your favorite decade of shades. We’ll bring you up to speed on the evolution of sunglasses in fashion and the celebrities who made them famous along the way — plus, we’ll give you the chance to snag those retro styles for less.
Cat Eye Sunglasses
Meow! Cat eye shades just scream, “I am woman, hear me roar.” Made popular in the ‘50s by glamorous celebs like Marilyn Monroe, cat eyes add the perfect amount of drama to any look. Today, they still shine in the spotlight, worn frequently by celebs like Katy Perry, who looks retro-fab in bold black-and-white pairs.
While cat eyes were popular for women, browline sunglasses were all the rage for men in the 1950s. These shades have a hipster, smarty-pants reputation. In the ‘50s, human rights activist Malcolm X was rarely seen without a pair of his iconic browline styles. Today, you can find these shades in a wide array of colors, patterns, and lens tints. Take a tip from Robert Pattinson and rock a sleek all-black pair, because it’s true what they say — some classics never go out of style.
Retro Square Sunglasses
The epitome of cool, retro square sunglasses first gained popularity in the 1960s among creative types like Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol. In recent years, these shades have made a major comeback, and we don’t foresee them disappearing from the spotlight anytime soon. Spotted on everyone from Rihanna to John Mayer, retro square shades (and their clear-lens cousin) are the choice pair for all you rebels without a cause.
We can thank the infamous Jackie O for making oversized sunglasses a thing, and we’re so glad she did. Big, plastic frames in pops of black and white were the eyewear trend dominating women’s fashion in the 1960s. Today, oversized sunglasses come in a spectrum of shapes and styles. Try a pair with embellished temples, geometric frames, or keep it classic like Ashley Olsen in an all-black, square-shaped pair that’ll have you saying, “Please, no photos.”
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Lennon — the hippie rockers of this decade made tinted lenses a hot trend during the ‘70s. Peace, love, and rose-colored shades, baby — these sunglasses were a must-have for the flower power generation. Musicians today, like Bono and Elton John, are still fond of wearing these shades during performances. Rock a pair of your own to a music festival or when you’re feeling artsy-fartsy.
Square Framed Sunglasses
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive! In the age of disco, large square-framed sunglasses ruled the dance floor. Most often found in shades of gold and bronze with gradient-tinted lenses, these sunglasses were popular for both men and women. Today, celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Cee Lo Green have been known to sport the Saturday Night Fever-esque style and look good doin’ it.
All hail the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, and his futuristic, shield-style shades! Fashion in the 1980s was all about bold, off-the-wall, head-turning trends. It’s no surprise, then, that shield sunglasses stole the spotlight in the decade known for MTV, Hammer pants, and larger-than-life hairstyles. Modern-day rockstars like Kanye and Pitbull are still repping MJ’s iconic shades for a look that’s party-ready 24/7.
In 1986, aviator sunglasses emerged as an icon when Tom Cruise and his fellow cast members donned them in the popular blockbuster, Top Gun (heard of it?). Maverick’s slick style started a trend that hasn’t slowed down much since the ‘80s. Today, aviators are as popular as ever, seen on A-list celebs like Diddy and Kim Kardashian. You’ll feel invincible in a pair of oversized, mirrored, or polarized aviators. Take flight with caution.
Wraparound sports-style sunglasses became a functional staple for many people in the ‘90s. With NASCAR drivers like Jeff Gordon becoming household names, sporty shades in different tints and fits grew quickly in popularity. Cyclists, tennis players, water sport enthusiasts, and everyone in-between needed sunglasses to give them that extra edge. Whether you’re playing a quick round of beach volleyball or going for gold like Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, reach for a pair of sport sunglasses and get ready to bring your A-game.
If everything was bigger and bolder in the ‘80s, it all shrank when the ‘90s rolled around. Smaller, more minimalist sunglasses in round and oval shapes became the trend of the moment. Seen on everyone from young Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen to Courtney Cox, round shades were a hot commodity in the decade of grunge, boy bands, and AOL. Today, Mary-Kate Olsen still owns this trend, wearing an updated, oversized version of the round sunglasses trend around town.
Which decade do you belong in? Find out here.