Diligent readers, and those with considerably less crow’s feet, will have only stored their sunglasses away for a few months (the rainy ones when you objectively look like a tool for wearing them). But while UV is year-round, it’s summer when frames become a daily essential. Unless, of course, you’re fine with permanently squinting.
Sunglasses are not just a style statement – they can attract or repel, be a mirror or a shield. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then perfectly suited sunglasses aptly deserve to be called ‘shades’.
But the business of selecting a pair is equally shady. The range of styles available these days is dizzyingly diverse, and that’s before factoring in variables such as materials, colour and budget. Before breaking out into a sweat, use this guide to shed some light on the process.
The Right Frames For Your Face Shape
In the hunt for the perfect pair of sunglasses, it’s essential to first identify the frames that complement your face shape. While a handful of guys will be able to wear any they like, some will be completely off limits.
Oval Face Shape
Those with oval faces will always be lucky in life since pretty much every haircut, hat and pair of shades will look good on them.
Aviators, clubmasters or wayfarers; heavy rims or none – anything goes. The only advice for oval face shapes is to refrain from oversized novelty frames, as they do no one any favours.
Round Face Shape
Guys with an undefined jaw and roughly equal face width and length should avoid curved shapes. “If round-faced, aviators will never work,” explains stylist and fashion editor Christopher Maul, who has dressed the likes of David Gandy and Oliver Cheshire. “Instead, opt for frames that pack an angular punch or wrap around the face.”
Short rectangular designs and wayfarers will offset this shape’s natural curvature, helping create definition while also making the face appear longer.
Square Face Shape
Using the same principle of choosing a frame that’s opposite to the face shape, square-faced men with prominent jawlines and foreheads will benefit from a style that softens harsh lines. “Square faces need some curve appeal, so aviators are the best bet,” says Maul.
Along with aviators, round John Lennon-style frames or semi-rimless options make for solid choices in this case.
Long/Rectangular Face Shape
The need to add balance is the same for face length and width as well as features. As Maul explains, rectangular faces should opt for slightly oversized frames. “Look to wayfarers or shields, which will add width.”
For some, shield sunglasses have the faint whiff of ski holiday about them, so keep these for strictly off-duty wear. Meanwhile, the trusty wayfarer can be relied on as an easy work-to-play staple.
Heart Face Shape
Heart shapes must contend with wide foreheads and narrow chins, a contrast that can be difficult to frame correctly. “Consider something like semi-rimless clubmasters,” says Maul – a style that, like a heart-shaped face, has a sense of contrast to it.
Round frames can also add balance to this shape if rimless is not an option – look to fellow heart shape Johnny Depp for inspiration.
Picking The Right Frames
Once the minefield that is face shapes has been successfully navigated, it’s time to explore the other points of difference that come into play when finding the perfect sunglasses.
Second only to the overall style of frame, the shade of shade (if that’s not too confusing) you choose has the biggest impact on their wearability.
While it’s often a classic choice for clothes, black is not always necessarily a perfect match for every skin type when it comes to sunglasses. “Black frames mean business but can sometimes overpower a paler complexion,” say Maul. For a timeless alternative, try tortoiseshell or a dark woodgrain finish.
“Unless you’re Joey Essex or a teenager at a rave, steer clear of anything harshly fluorescent,” adds Maul. Instead, if you want to come away from traditional colourways, look to more muted hues such as burgundy, emerald and caramel, which will transition from work to play seamlessly.
Colour isn’t just for the frames either – also consider using different hues to liven up your lenses. Rose-tinted lenses are a classic that will add softness to a minimal sports luxe outfit, while champagne lenses can bring a sense of sophistication to tailored attire. Just don’t go matching the lenses to your shirt or pocket square, which often looks contrived and screams try-hard.
Trend-Led Or Timeless Classic?
If torn between a classic pair of sunglasses or something more of-the-moment, cover all bases with a design that straddles both sides. But don’t forget that eyewear trends, like others, are fleeting. “The goggles of the 1980s illustrate this beautifully,” says Maul. “It’s OK to embrace a thicker, fuller frame that’s on-trend, but you should be prepared to look back in 10 years’ time with a cringe.”
If opting to buy shades that lean current rather than classic, it’s also worth shelling out for a wearable pair that’ll not only work now for more buttoned-up environments and events but won’t date as quickly either. Think timeless shapes such as aviators, wayfarers or clubmasters in traditional metals or dark finishes.
You only need to look at Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver or Michael Jackson at the 1984 Grammys to see that sunglasses of all kinds are achingly cool. But remember their original purpose is to protect peepers from eyeball-searing UV rays put out by the sun.
Always look for quality sunglasses that block 100 per cent of both UVA and UVB rays. This is usually marked on the lenses by a sticker or a CE mark, which shows they meet European standards.
This level of protection is not only available at the luxury end, so there’s no need to neglect cheaper frames found on the high street. However, those flimsy plastic frames bought from a man by the side of the beach in Kos probably won’t cut it.
In the same way different sunglasses look better on different faces, different materials look better on different frames. While you likely don’t need us to tell you that wooden aviators are probably (read: definitely) a bad idea, a primer on the key styles can help make the process of buying less of an eyesore.
Acetate is high-quality plastic used particularly on shapes such as the wayfarer. In addition to being strong and lightweight, it’s one of the most common frame materials because of its ability to take on a range of colours and patterns, including tortoiseshell.
Equally as popular, metal frames are usually a mix of several materials such as titanium and stainless steel that combine to give a strong, lightweight feel to styles like the aviator. In the case of models like the clubmaster, metal is used alongside acetate to give a sleek finish to sturdy frames.
The use of wood in sunglasses is on the rise, with brands such as Calvin Klein and Diesel using the textured material to upgrade traditional shapes. However, it’s best kept to accents, such as on the arms (à la Tom Ford) or the upper part of half-rimmed styles.
Key Sunglasses Styles
Originally designed to protect WWII pilots’ eyes while flying at high altitude, aviators soon made the switch from cockpit to catwalk.
Today the teardrop frame is available in a range of designs, including metal and acetate frames with mirrored, solid or gradient lenses. Just avoid wearing them with anything that could appear costumey (think aviator jackets or boiler suits), for risk of looking like you’re on your way to a fancy-dress party.
Will Suit: Oval and square face shapes.
Key Brands: Ray-Ban, Persol, Cutler and Gross, Oliver Peoples, Tom Ford, Barton Perreira, Jeepers Peepers, Reclaimed Vintage, Acne Studios.
The original thick-framed wayfarers should – strictly speaking – be bought from only one brand: Ray-Ban. That said, these days the American firm’s instantly recognisable icon can be found in various guises (often labelled ‘D-Frame’ sunglasses) and at every price point, from high-end to high street.
Typically, this style comes in two sizes (regular or oversized), so it’s wise to try before you buy to secure the perfect fit. While you’re there, consider lesser worn examples such as those with reflective or coloured lenses to give this timeless silhouette a contemporary twist.
Will Suit: Oval, long and round face shapes.
Key Brands: Ray-Ban, Oakley, Cubitts, Cutler and Gross, Prada, Saint Laurent, Buddy.
Despite being more widely being referred to as the clubmaster, the half-rimmed shape worn by Malcolm X and Lyndon Johnson was known as the ‘browline’ when it was introduced in the 1940s.
The name came from the thick upper frame that sits across the brows, making them perfect for drawing attention up the face and away from a larger jaw.
Will Suit: Oval, heart, round and square face shapes.
Key Brands: Ray-Ban, Mykita, RetroSuperFuture, Gucci, Thom Browne, Persol, Jeepers Peepers, Urban Outfitters.
Getting over round frames’ association with Harry Potter and Where’s Wally is harder than finding a high-quality pair. But the circular shape also has a long list of stylish wearers, from Johnny Depp and Samuel L Jackson to Nick Wooster and Stanley Tucci.
Whether large or small, metal or plastic, round frames will make a statement, so it pays to opt for classic, minimal examples in dark colours for a subtle style upgrade.
Will Suit: Oval, square and heart face shapes.
Key Brands: Moscot, Cutler and Gross, Garrett Leight, Oliver Peoples, Mykita, Illesteva, Ray-Ban, Han Kjøbenhavn.
Anything worn by Michael Caine and Jack Nicholson in the 1950s and 1960s gets a resounding thumbs up in the style stakes. Take square frames, for example: the perfect antidote to rounder faces, the structured style helps give the illusion of strong cheekbones and a chiselled jawline.
The term ‘square’ can refer to a range of shapes, but typically they look best in dark tortoiseshell and with sleek details such as a browbar and keyhole bridges.
Will Suit: Oval, round and heart face shapes.
Key Brands: Tom Ford, Persol, Prada, Saint Laurent, Oliver Peoples, Cutler & Gross, Oakley, Buddy.