Profiles in black sunglasses
Sunglasses trends come and go, so don’t worry if you’re having trouble keeping track of all the newest styles or if fashion isn’t really your forte. Ultimately, you can never go wrong with a pair of classic black sunglasses.
Sunglasses have been a fixture in pop culture throughout the last century. While the most popular shapes, sizes, features and colors constantly change, there’s always a place for black shades.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of black sun shades and you’re in need of some inspiration, look no further. We’ll take a look at three areas of pop culture where black sunglasses have made a mark.
The world of spies: “Men in Black” sunglasses
Whether it’s Agent K and Agent J from the “Men in Black” movies or actual Secret Service agents, a secret agent’s outfit wouldn’t be complete without those infamous dark black sunglasses with opaque lenses.
The U.S. Secret Service insists that there’s no particular reason why their agents wear all-black sunglasses. They claim that it’s truly just to keep the sun out of their eyes, like everybody else. But the stakes are arguably higher — blocking out sunlight helps agents more accurately scan a crowd for suspicious behavior.
But is that really the only reason they wear classic black sunglasses? The Secret Service wouldn’t be so secret if they let us in on all of their secrets, would they?
Many people have speculated why other secret agents, both real and fictional, sport the dark shades.
Hidden cameras, of course
Spy-camera glasses and sunglasses can record videos and snapshots of what’s happening around you. Some can even capture what’s going on behind you.
These glasses are a concept that may have once been reserved for film and television, but they’re now products you can purchase with a Google search and a few clicks. And they won’t set you back as much as you might think — they range anywhere from $20 to $400. Even the more expensive pairs are not that much higher in price than a regular pair of quality sunglasses.
You can get regular glasses with hidden spy cameras, but there’s a good reason why secret agents might opt for dark black sunglasses instead. Often, glasses with built-in cameras are on the thicker, clunkier side, so black sunglasses with dark lenses are ideal for hidden cameras. Since they are so dark to begin with, the added thickness of a camera blends in more easily. What spy wants to be noticed?
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’80s black sunglasses inspired by the big screen
The 1980s gave us a lot of classic movies, from “Sixteen Candles” to “Raging Bull” to “The Terminator.” And of course — in the way of all good movies — the movies and their stars inspired and informed the nation’s fashion choices.
The movies of the ‘80s brought a resurgence of some of the most popular sunglass styles from earlier in the century, as well as some new takes on classic frames.
Black sunglasses — Wayfarer style
The Wayfarer sunglasses frame — first introduced by Ray-Ban in 1952 — was a popular choice throughout the ’50s and ’60s. They faded out of view for a few years but came back with a vengeance in the 1980s.
In the first few years of the ’80s, Wayfarer sunglasses lagged in sales. Annually, sales were at fewer than 20,000 pairs.
But that all changed when a well-executed product placement deal between Bausch + Lomb and the marketing company Unique Product Placement put Wayfarer frames back on the map.
Tom Cruise donned a pair of black Wayfarer sunglasses in the 1983 film “Risky Business.” This brought U.S. Wayfarer sales to 360,000 pairs practically overnight.
Over the next few years, Wayfarer sunglasses made cameos in other highly popular films and television shows, including “The Breakfast Club,” “Miami Vice” and “Moonlighting.” By the end of the decade, Ray-Ban had sold four million pairs.
Black aviator sunglasses
Aviator sunglasses were an invention of necessity.
In the early 1900s, test pilots began flying their planes higher than ever before. At these higher altitudes, they had to find ways to stay safe in icy cold temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The pilots began wearing leather hoods and protecting their eyes with fur-lined goggles.
During a test flight in 1920 pilot Capt. Rudolph “Shorty” Schroeder’s goggles fogged up. Unable to see, he pulled them off. Just moments after doing so, his vision blurred. Soon, his eyes had completely frozen over.
Miraculously, Schroeder was able to land the plane. But then-Lieutenant John Macready — his friend who pulled him out of the cockpit — remained haunted by the sight of Schroeder’s swollen eyelids. A pilot himself, Macready knew that something needed to be done. He began working with Bausch + Lomb to design goggles that would protect pilots’ eyes from the cold and from the brilliant sunlight while flying at high altitudes.
These goggles would eventually become the sunglasses we know today as “aviators.” Aviators were first sold to the public in the 1930s and were originally marketed as sporting equipment. Bausch + Lomb designed the first metal frame version and introduced them in 1939 as Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses. Aviators soon also became standard gear for soldiers. By the 1940s, the teardrop-shaped frames had become part of mainstream fashion and culture.
Unlike Wayfarers, aviator sunglasses never really lost their popularity. However, sales did surge after Tom Cruise wore a pair in “Top Gun” as part of another product placement deal. Within seven months of the movie’s release, sales of Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses increased by 40%.
Today, aviator sunglasses are available in a wide variety of colors. But if you want to go full Tom Cruise in “Top Gun,” the simple black aviator sunglasses are a must-have.
Clubmaster frames (also known as “browline frames”) were first developed for regular prescription eyeglasses in 1947. It wasn’t until Bruce Willis wore a pair of black Clubmaster sunglasses on the TV show “Moonlighting” in the mid ’80s that they became a staple in the world of sunglasses.
Clubmaster sunglasses were thrust into the spotlight again in 1986 with the release of the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
If you look at still images from some of the most memorable scenes, such as when the gang is riding in that notorious red Ferrari, you will see Clubmasters in action. From the top, they look like your classic Wayfarer black rimmed sunglasses. But on the bottom, they take on a much different style. The bottom halves of Clubmaster sunglasses either have no rim or only a very thin metal rim.
Today, Clubmaster frames remain very popular in the hipster fashion scene.
Black sunglasses from famous fashion icons
Fashion icons throughout history have influenced what we wear from head to toe. We take our cues from the experts, whether it’s for hats, jackets, shoes or sunglasses.
Jacqueline Kennedy’s oversized black sunglasses
Who screams “fashion icon” more than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis?
As the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy became well-known in the U.S. and abroad for her sense of style. Women across the globe flocked to the stores for Jackie-esque pillbox hats and flat-heeled pumps.
After her husband’s assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy attempted to live as private a life as possible, shying away from media attention and ultimately marrying a long-time friend, Aristotle Onassis. However, despite her attempts to stay out of the limelight, she remained a fashion icon.
Designers around the world created looks just for her — and of course, these looks wouldn’t be complete without her signature dark black round sunglasses. The big black Jackie O sunglasses are still in style (like these Jackie O-inspired glasses) and will forever be a significant part of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis look.
Black John Lennon sunglasses
How could we discuss famous fashion icons who have contributed to trends in sunglasses without talking about John Lennon?
The world-famous musician was given a pair of round glasses in 1966 so he could prepare for his role in the film “How I Won the War.” It didn’t take long for the round frames to become a key part of his image and his brand.
Lennon wore a type of glasses and sunglasses called teashades. Teashades are round with a frame that’s made entirely out of thin metal. They’re typically smaller than other popular styles, like aviators and Wayfarers.
Throughout his career, Lennon tried out many different color lenses and was particularly well known for his orange-tinted lenses.
In fact, so famous were his teashades that a former chauffeur for the Beatles sold a broken pair of Lennon’s green-tinted, gold-wire-framed sunglasses for a whopping $184,000 at an auction.
But don’t worry — if you want some teashades of your own, maybe opt for a subtler pair that won’t set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can find stylish black John Lennon sunglasses for a fraction of that price from modern designers, like these black round sunglasses from EyeBuyDirect.
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Kim Kardashian black sunglasses
Whether you love them or not, the Kardashian family is known for their fashion choices — and arguably, the Kardashian that’s best known is Kim.
Kim seems to always be photographed wearing sunglasses. While she occasionally switches up her color choice, she generally sticks to a darker palette. This means that if you’re hoping to get the Kardashian look, black sunglasses are a safe bet.
But what about style and size?
Well, there isn’t really a clear-cut answer to that. The black sunglasses Kim Kardashian wears range from tiny to styles that take up half her face. They may be square, round, aviator-style — you name it, she’s worn them.
The real key to pulling off the Kardashian look with your sunglasses isn’t all about the frames. It’s about having the attitude and the confidence — and exuding that everywhere you go.
Gaga for glasses
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (known to the world as Lady Gaga) is no stranger to fashion. She’s the queen of reinventing her style, going from wearing a dress made out of raw meat to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, to channeling Marilyn Monroe with a classy black velvet gown just a few years later at the 2016 Golden Globes.
She’s also known for her out-there taste in sunglasses.
Like Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga favors black sunglasses but doesn’t have one signature style. But no matter which pair she chooses, you can always expect them to stand out and make a strong statement.
Some of her most iconic sunglasses have included:
A pair of embellished, black, cat-eye sunglasses that oozed Old Hollywood glitz and glamor at the 2019 Met Gala.
Futuristic and sparkly crystal-covered dark sunglasses for the cover of her 2008 debut album, “The Fame.”
Black Mickey Mouse sunglasses worn in the music video for her 2008 hit “Paparazzi.”
Oversized black sunglasses with long, black tassels dangling from the bottom at Los Angeles International Airport in 2015.
Sunglasses are so important to Lady Gaga that when her famous black Versace sunglasses went missing while she was on tour with the Pussycat Dolls, she was absolutely devastated. Saying that her time in Europe with the Pussycat Dolls had been ruined, she offered a huge reward for them: Whoever found and returned them would get to star in Lady Gaga’s next music video.
SEE RELATED: Designer sunglasses: Look like a celebrity
Time to start shopping for black sunglasses
Whether you’re hoping to make it onto a list of inspirational pop culture icons in the future or you’re perfectly satisfied to slip on in with the crowd, you can’t go wrong with a good pair of black sunglasses.
Now that you’ve been inspired by some of the most iconic sunglass styles available, take a look to see how to find the best sunglasses for your face shape.
Page published in January 2021
Page updated in March 2021