A while ago, I was introduced to the phrase: to throw shade. For those that aren’t familiar, throwing shade is when one publicly denounces/talks trash about someone. Not going to lie, it’s a pretty sassy string of words, so I won’t judge if it’s a part of your vocabulary, but we must be clear that the act of “throwing shade” itself, is not chic. Which is why, as a proponent of helping make the word a chic-er place, I’m going to throw some light on shades.
Five classic sunglass silhouettes, their stories, and the soundtracks to their lives:
1) The Wayfarer = Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley
Wayfarers are a testament to just how fickle people are. The eyeglass shape was designed in 1952 by Raymond Stegman, of Ray-Ban, and immediately skyrocketed to popularity. Only, in the ‘70s, we decided we didn’t like the Wayfarer anymore. Sales bottomed out, and production was nearly discontinued. The Wayfarer wasn’t quick to give up, so it entered into product placement overhaul. The overhaul paid off, and by the early ‘80s, we were smitten again. Just kidding. Things started getting bland in the ‘90s. Again, the Wayfarer responded; This time, with a makeover. The tilt of the lens was reduced dramatically, so that it could rest on the top of the head, and the frames became smaller. We wanted them back. A few years ago, we started to miss the original. Always the crowdpleaser, Ray-Bans now come in both the original and the updated style. We’re back to going steady. Thanks for putting up with us, Wayfarers. We know it isn’t easy.
2) The Teashade = Imagine – John Lennon
You know what they say: with age comes wisdom. Of these five classic sunglass shapes, the round lens is the eldest of all, and have a history of being the choice of savants. It all started when round lenses were used on eyeglasses without legs. These contraptions were held to face by the nose bridge and the part of the glasses where one would now find nosepads. These components basically squeezed your nose, and the added friction is what kept the glasses on one’s face. The round lens was found on the faces of the best and the brightest. Fast forward to the 1900s, and teashades were still found resting on the nose a slew of intellectuals and activists, like Mahatma Gahndi and John Lennon,. They were especially iconic during the counterculture movement. They took a backseat, until 2007, when Lennon’s wire frame teashades were estimated to go for $1.5 million at an auction, and the teashade caught a second wind. It’s safe to say that Lennon’s legacy lives on, in the form of B&J’s Whirled Peace ice cream, Strawberry Fields in Central Park, and teashades. And his music, of course.
3) Aviator = Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
Aviators bleed red, white, and blue. They came to be after aviator goggles failed to protect a pilot’s eyes from the sunlight as planes reached higher altitudes. The lack of tint in the lens of the goggles led one pilot, John Macready, to design sunglasses that fit flying goggles. Aviators entered production in 1936, by Bausch+Lomb, who have since merged with Ray-Ban, and were made available to the masses a year later, in 1937. Aviator’s are in the ranks of the Ford T-Model, and American Football in terms of American-ness. American-ness, may or may not be a real word, but let’s just go with it.
4) The Oversize = C.R.E.A.M – Wu Tang Clan
Before Jackie O made these glasses a staple piece for anyone who is or is aspiring to be some sort of public figure, oversize glasses were already a status symbol. Across the pond, the Chinese had begun the tradition of using the size of sunglasses as a measure of social status since the 15th century. When Italian traders brought vision correcting tinted lenses to China, only families that could make it rain silver sycee ingots could afford them. Thus, the bigger your frames, the more wealthy you were. The oversized sunny was indeed born with a silver spoon in its mouth, but hey, don’t hate, appreciate!
5) The Cat Eye = The Girl Got Hot – Weezer
After speaking with a few ladies who actually grew up in the 50s, it seems that cat eyes were the bane of a girl’s existence when they first entered the scene. Every glasses-wearing girl seemed to be stuck with cat-eyes, so they were essentially the decade equivalent of braces. For those that originally sported this silhouette, cat-eyes seem to serve as a reminder of their awkward teenage years. Coincidentally, back in the ‘50s, cat-eyes were smaller and more angular than they are today. Like those that donned these glasses back in the day, the silhouette itself has also done its fair share of growing. They’re no longer just knees and elbows. Now, cat-eye frames are taller and curvier. Audrey Hepburn was the first to wear the sunglass version of cat-eyes in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, and they’ve since creeped into the wardrobe of many.
And there you have it, a look into the lives of five of the finest sunglass silhouettes. So much history held in so few cubic feet/meters.
Finally, please remember, the only throwing that a Chictopian does when it comes to shade, is throw on a pair of shades.
Man, I love wordplay.
By Adrienne Y. Han