I have a big head. Not in terms of arrogance, but in the literal sense. As a result, buying sunglasses is a pain. Most pairs make me look like a third-rate coke dealer, sex offender or—with my deathly pallor—a vampire. I aspire to be one of those folk who can throw on a pair of standards, like the Wayfarer or Frogskin, but it doesn’t work. My sleep patterns and caffeine habit should, by rights, make sunglasses a necessity, but the width and height of the damned things makes me utterly self-conscious, and if you aren’t comfortable in shades, it shows. At least I’m aware of this.
I’ve got a few Ray Bans that are immediately rendered uncool on my face, and a pair of Stussy Michaels (which I always assumed were themed on Michael Caine’s Oliver Goldsmith favourites) that felt right once but don’t any more. I would wear cheap locs like Eazy-E and accept defeat but save on expenditure. Except they make me look even dumber. When the quest for appropriate sunglasses leaves you so adverse to readily-available models you’d rather squint your way around a seafront, something’s gone very very wrong.
But at least I’m aware of my sunglass-unfriendly face. Many aren’t. The second rise of the Frogskin—particularly in bolder colours—truly highlighted buffoons in box logo hats on skinny bikes as ones to avoid. It’s a classic design, and the Eric Koston variations are particularly strong, but it isn’t to all heads. Some need to fall back. Then there’s those who should be held up as the masters of darked-out glass. John Ford remains an unheralded style general. For ‘The Searchers’, ‘Stagecoach’ and ‘Fort Apache’, his legend is cemented, but he heads up this legends of sunglasses cavalry with his pipe and rounded frames.
Dignity, authority and power is reflected in those lenses, and they were noted by another legend-Akira Kurosawa, who idolised Ford. It’s refreshing that an oft-imitated genius (yeah, I said it—prove me wrong on that burst of bombast. I triple-dare you), like Akira felt inclined to imitate himself, by aping the old-West master’s dark-glassed appearance, but adding a flat cap (though Ford was no stranger to headwear himself), creating his own iconic look in the process. Then again, the Wild West genre would pilfer from Kurosawa when it came to the lucky number seven, so it was swings and roundabouts.
Beyond the auteurs, on the sonic front, the master is Martin Rev on the synthesiser, creating a drone with concealed eyes, and aiding in antagonizing Clash fans. It’s law that most bands benefit from an aloof individual manning keyboard, synth or drum machine, hiding behind shades to amplify that blank aesthetic. Rev helped cement that musician rule. His sunglasses were often preposterous—vast ski numbers pre b-boy contradicting his wiry frame. But that was part of the look, and Martin pulled it off with the illusion of effortlessness.
Eric ‘Eazy-E’ Wright remains criminally un-Twittered on his death day, despite a vast musical legacy and one of music’s most striking looks, from the boxy Pendletons to navy chucks, old-English fonts, Jheri curls and the formidable corners of his disposable swapmeet sunglasses. The perfect accessory to crank up a mean-mug. Listening to the cartoonish violence of ‘Louisville Slugger’ , Eazy merrily embraced a cartoonish persona, and these glasses helped define that character, but as with the previous trio, he never let the sunglasses wear him. Always the other way around.
For me, the quest continues. It needs to be resolved by next Summer.