It’s safe to say that almost all the various types of sunglasses have evolved from functional accessory to a full-on fashion staple.
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Gone is the era of bland, personality-less eye shields intended solely to block out blinding rays. Today, the sunglasses you sport say just as much about who you are as they do about the light conditions outside.
Fortunately, finding your “Goldilocks” shades is easier than you might think.
By gaining a basic understanding of how different types of sunglasses interact with different face shapes, you’ll be able to confidently choose a style that compliments your unique features and elevates your individual sense of style.
What Are Polarized Sunglasses?
No matter what type of sunglasses you ultimately end up going with, it’s important to make sure that the pair you choose is polarized.
“Polarized” is just a fancy, scientific way of saying “sun-proof.” In a nutshell, it means that the lenses have been chemically treated to effectively filter out a portion of the incoming light in the wearer’s environment. Polarization keeps delicate peepers safe from potentially-harmful UV rays without affecting visibility.
But be warned—just because the pair you’re looking at has that little “Polarized” sticker doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth your hard-earned money. Makers of cheap eyewear often cut costs by brushing a thin coat of light-blocking chemicals onto the outside of their lenses, resulting in a fragile film that can begin to scratch off in no time flat.
A well-made pair of sunglasses, by comparison, will consist of a chemical laminate sandwiched between two or more layers of durable lens material. The difference in quality may not always be discernible at a glance, but it will be abundantly apparent when it comes to the overall look, feel, and performance of the glasses themselves.
The Link Between Face Shape & Types of Sunglasses
The shape of a particular pair of sunnies is what takes it beyond the realm of functionality and makes it an integral addition to your aesthetic. As such, not all sunglasses work equally well on all faces.
Just as different styles of sunglasses have different shapes, faces also come in an endless array of proportions. To make the pairing process a little easier, eyewear enthusiasts generally divide faces up into categories according to their basic shape:
To determine your own face shape, take a look in the mirror and make a note of the rough shape formed by your forehead, cheeks, and jawline.
A good rule of thumb is to settle on a style that offsets your face’s most prominent features. If you have a diamond face shape with a sharply pointed jaw, for instance, round or square lenses will probably be your best bet. Similarly, square and rectangular glasses can lend an element of angularity to round faces.
Types of Sunglasses
Once you’ve determined your face shape and preferred style of sunglasses, it’s time to try some on. Here’s a look at the most popular types:
The aviator type of sunglasses is like an international symbol for cool. The iconic style, which was born from the needs of high-performance military pilots and has been in commercial circulation since the late 1930s, is recognizable for its large, reflective, teardrop-shaped lenses and streamlined metal frames.
The main benefit of aviators, aside from the fact that they look great on pretty much everyone, is the ability of the oversized eyepieces to keep unwanted illumination from reaching the eye from around the edges of the frames.
All in all, it’s hard to go wrong with a trusty pair of aviators, as they effortlessly enhance almost every face shape and are suitable for both casual and formal outings. This makes them a safe choice, and an unerringly stylish one at that.
Designed by Ray-Ban in the 1950s and made famous by countless actors, musicians, and pop culture giants along the way, Wayfarers have reached a new peak of popularity in recent years. One of the main reasons for this is their timelessness—the Wayfarer legacy extends from James Dean to the Blues Brothers to the alien hunters from “Men in Black.”
Wayfarers are also one of the most versatile types of sunglasses there is, looking just at home at an outdoor wedding or work function as they do at a rowdy concert or sporting event. You can rock them proudly wherever you go without fear of committing an unforgivable fashion faux pas.
I recommend Wayfarers for anyone who’s on the hunt for a solid, all-purpose style that doesn’t require any special effort in the way of matching. Keep in mind, though, that some models could make you look a bit too blocky if you already have a somewhat square face.
Browline sunglasses take their name from the thick frames running along the uppermost portion of the eyepieces. The lower part of the frames, meanwhile, is lined with a thin metal band, or in some cases may be partially rimless. The contrasting frame thickness draws more attention to the eyes and has a widening effect on the face.
A massive hit in the 50s and 60s, browline shades have made a decisive comeback in the second decade of the new millennium. They’re especially beloved by hipster trendsetters and fans of retro fashion, as well as those seeking a style that lies somewhere between laid back pleasure-seeker and thoughtful intellectual.
Browline types of sunglasses can do wonders for a narrow oval face shape, thanks to the broadness of their upper frames. However, their lenses are often round enough to be flattering to round and square faces, as well.
As their name implies, rimless sunglasses do away with the molded rims that ordinarily outline and give shape to a pair of shades. This simple deletion gives them a sleek, striking silhouette that really helps them stand out in a crowd.
But there’s more to rimless types of sunglasses than eye-catching, minimalistic visual appeal. Since they’re made using less material, they’re also extremely lightweight, allowing them to sit comfortably on the wearer’s face without scratching, pinching, or need for constant adjustment.
Rimless sunglasses aren’t so much a singular style as a family that includes a wide range of shapes and designs, so be sure to follow the aforementioned face shape guidelines if you’re thinking about going rimless.
The sporty types of sunglasses were originally conceived as a way to protect players from glare on the court, field, track, and slopes. In 2020, they’re a mainstay of casual fashion, with big-name brands like Oakley, Smith Optics, and Mykita leading the charge.
Sport shades break from the pack in terms of design, often showcasing unusual shapes and brightly colored reflective lenses. The majority of models boast ergonomic designs that stress maximum comfort and long-term wearability. Additionally, they can withstand even the roughest treatment.
The one major downside of sport sunglasses is their limited application. Their outlandish appearance makes them totally inappropriate for anything other than the most casual activities and engagements—in fact, they can put you at serious risk of looking tacky when paired with anything more dressy than khakis and a polo.
Round frame types of sunglasses have been around for ages, and not for nothing. Their simplicity of design comes with both utilitarian practicality and offbeat charm, putting them safely out of reach of the expiration dates that plague most clothing and accessory trends.
Circular specs can also serve as a kind of window into the wearer’s personality. To most onlookers, they suggest a kind of intrepid quirkiness or eccentricity, a daring to go one’s own way regardless of what others think.
If you’ve got a square, diamond, or heart face, a set of round frames may be just what you need to balance out your natural angles. That being said, they can look equally fetching on oblong and oval faces, so there’s no need to feel left out if you have smoother contours.
I firmly believe that there’s a perfect pair of sunglasses for everyone. To find yours, all you need is a familiarity with your own face and a willingness to experiment with different shapes and styles. With so much variety at your fingertips, you’re bound to hit on a pair that checks all the right boxes.