Vintage Christian Dior sunglasses from Labrabbit Optics. See more of our…
Everybody needs sunglasses.
That's what Eric Williams thought when he started selling sunglasses as a street vendor in 1989 to pay his way through college. Now he sells them year-round at The Silver Room, the Wicker Park accessory boutique he's owned since 1997.
"Male, female, it doesn't matter how big you are, how small you are, it's a very universal thing to wear," he said. "Everyone needs sunglasses when it's sunny outside."
Besides protecting the eyes and the sensitive skin around them from damaging UV rays, sunglasses have always been a key player in summer fashion.
"Accessories in general are a big thing for the overall look. Sunglasses are kind of like the cherry on top," Roger Rodriguez, co-owner of South Loop streetwear shop Jugrnaut. "It can take you from looking cool to super-cool."
Whether you're beach-bound or sipping cocktails at a rooftop bar, sunglasses are a small way to transform your look. "They give you instant attitude, so in one pair you may look very glamorous and very red carpet, another you might look a bit more vintage and feminine, another you might look a little bit more athletic or modern or minimalist," said Gregg Andrews, Oak Brook-based fashion creative director for Nordstrom.
We tapped industry buyers to dish on this summer's trends, plus shopping tips for picking the perfect pair.
"What we're seeing is the idea of classics with a twist," said Andrews. "We're seeing really familiar shapes that have been tweaked and restyled to make them look new and contemporary."
Look for oversized or colored Wayfarers (the Ray-Ban style popularized by James Dean and, more recently, celebs such as Kate Moss) and aviators (think Tom Cruise in "Top Gun") trimmed in metals other than silver. "Gold is really, really moving forward as the new metal of choice … and we're also seeing rose gold and bronze colors for men," said Andrews.
"Sunglasses have been around forever and everyone's trying to reinvent them in some way," said Rodriguez. "Right now what I'm noticing is [companies] are doing more than just standard metal or standard plastic or acrylic." Rodriguez's store Jugrnaut stocks leather-covered sunglasses and he's also looking to carry wooden sunglasses from a company called Shwood. Patterns such as cheetah also provide a new spin on traditional animal-inspired neutrals such as tortoise shell.
For women, vintage-inspired styles such as cateyes are still going strong, especially in bright colors and pastel tones, which were big trends in clothing this spring, according to Lauren Griffiths, buyer at Detroit-based See, which has three Chicago locations and manufacturers its own line of sunglasses. 1950s and '60s-inspired geometric styles such as octagonal or hexagonal shapes, especially in transparent materials, are also big. "When you turn your head and the sun's shining, you pick up [the sunlight] and it kind of glimmers and it's really beautiful," she said. Ombre frames, with a darker shade at the top fading into a lighter hue at the bottom, are also popular.
If colored sunglasses sound too bold, look for two-tone style with a neutral front and color hidden on the backside of the frame. "It might be black or tortoise shell or a more subtle color on the outside of the frame, but then the inside is hot pink or fluorescent yellow, so just at certain angles, you can pick up that pop of color," said Griffiths.
HOW TO PICK
Chase trends all you want, but the best way to find the right pair is to try them on and see if the style flatters your face, said Coyote DeGroot, owner of Labrabbit Optics, a Noble Square store that stocks vintage and contemporary sunglasses.
"Occasionally, I do have people that come in trying to mimic a certain celebrity's look. Sometimes trying to look like Tom Cruise works. And sometimes it's a crash-and-burn scenario," said DeGroot. "I think there's a common misconception that there's some sort of golden ratio when it comes to face shape and eyewear shape. That does factor in … but there are so many other things to take into account: the rest of your look, what other sorts of things you like to wear, your spirit, your attitude."
For a good physical fit, check that the sunglasses fit the bridge of your nose and the width of your temple, said Andrews. "They should feel stable on your face; you should be able to move your head up, down, forward and back without them moving."
When it comes to size, bigger still tends to be better, but keep scale in mind if you have a smaller face. "There's an important distinction to be made between large sunglasses and face-eating sunglasses," said DeGroot.
As for the UV protection rating, consider where you'll be wearing the glasses. "If you're wearing them in your car, you probably don't need as much UV protection as you do if you're out walking or riding your bike along the lakefront," said Andrews.