Photo of Natalie Joos by Acielle at Style du Monde

Golden Age Hollywood movie stars initially wore sunglasses to protect their eyes from the bright lights on set, and this inadvertently gave them an air of mysterious cool. Wearing shades equated with being a superstar. Today’s A-listers have taken to wearing Matrix-inspired frames. Which is fine, if you like fashion fads, but I would suggest sunglasses that actually cover the eyes are infinitely more useful. I find the older I get, the more I wear sunglasses – and not in a starry fashion. For practical purposes, like: hiding tired eyes, instead of make-up for a quick trip to the local shops (photograph for That’s Not My Age), as well as for providing UV protection. And for these handy face-saving uses, I’d class sunglasses as a grown-up style staple.

On a friend’s 50th birthday weekend I forgot to pack a pair of sunglasses and nipped into Poundstretcher for a quick fix. Like a budget Jackie O, I came out with a big pair of bug-eye shades that lasted about five minutes until the cheap lenses made my eyes hurt. Squinting in the sun was less painful. My pal Adrienne (who writes about health and wellbeing and other things) explained this, ‘Darker tints don’t mean better protection. In fact, dark lenses without UV protection can be more damaging as they cause the pupils to dilate and let in even more light.’ Going on to add, ‘if you have light-coloured eyes like me – and you, Alyson – there’s a greater risk of sun damage (than for darker eyes). UV radiation can also increase the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.’

And the moral of that story is: wear sunglasses even on cloudy days (surprisingly cloud cover only reduces the amount of UV radiation by 10%), don’t leave packing till the last-minute and do buy decent lenses.


Please note: affiliate links in this post may generate commission.

A version of this sunglasses post appeared in my first book Style Forever.


21 thoughts on “Why sunglasses are more than just a fashion accessory

  1. I wear sunglasses all year, have very pale blue eyes and find that the slightest brightness causes me to squint! You will usually find them perched on top of my head when not in use and because of this I tend to forget that they are there, having got so used to wearing a pair! Love sunglasses, wouldn’t leave home without them.

  2. I love sunglasses.
    I wear them any time the light makes me squint – I think “Aha! wrinkle-formation alert”.
    Also – like scarves and handbags – they do not care what “designer”size I am.
    I like the combo of glossy lips and dark shades ( so eighties darling! – but I don’t care).
    Oh Yes – sunglasses rock!

  3. I agree with wearing good glasses and must wear prescription to drive. I recently found a brand called Anne et Valentin in Aspen, CO. They are handmade in Toulouse. Definitely an investment, but so beautiful and well-made.

  4. I wear prescription glasses all the time and also prescription sunglasses which are worth every penny – I feel cool and glamorous even if I’m dressed down in jeans and T-shirt. My latest prescription non-sunglasses have a blue tinted lens and they too are a boon if you need specs all the time. They hide wrinkles and ‘droop’ and add a little mystery to the everyday.

  5. I have been wearing sunglasses outside since I was in high school (a long time ago). A friend once asked if my eyeballs had ever been exposed to sunlight! My eye doctor says that wearing sunglasses is important for eye health and slows down the formation of cataracts and other eye problems. How often can you be cool and healthy at the same time? Win win!

  6. Love sunglasses. They’d be my Desert Island Disc luxury. Plus you can pretend you haven’t seen people you’d rather not chat to!

  7. I agree with all comments about use of sunglasses. As someone shortsighted I have always relied on nice looking large prescription sunglasses as well as nonprescription ones to wear over contact lenses. A good investment. I now swim in prescription sunglasses older ones as I do back crawl. I can see where I’m going and protect my eyes. They work better than goggles even prescription ones which I own.
    It’s a good thing that everyone is wearing “shades” now so one can push when and where you wear them. Tired sore eyes throw them on. Rush out of the house for an errand throw them on.

  8. Since my prescription glasses are must-wear any time I want to see anything, I get nice, somewhat jazzy frames with light-adaptive lenses (in brown, not gray). Less faff all around, particularly since I’m inside and outside all day long. Switching between pairs of glasses would be annoying and time consuming.

  9. Just a minor buzzkill : Before having a little cancer removed from my nostril, the surgeon explained that this is a common operation due to the reflection onto the nose caused by sunglasses. So, don’t forget your sunscreen.

  10. Sunglasses are a definite must for me while driving but I also love different ones as fashion accessories. Unfortunately style doesn’t always mean the lenses are good quality – even expensive ones!

  11. Mr toomanyshoes wear sunnies in all weathers. With cataracts in the family he insists that it’s about protecting your eyes. He’s right of course. Buy the best. My issue with sunnies is that I keep buying styles ( one splurge each 2 years) that don’t suit me. I love Aviators on other people, but they look crap on me. I like big frames, but they make me look weird.. etc etc This year, my splurge was on Chanel gold frames with reflector lenses. Loved them so much I laughed when I saw them and had to have them. The nagging doubt that they don’t suit me remains……

  12. Yes! To these cool glasses, the post, and everyone’s comments about benefits. One of the easiest fashion additions, too. Let us not belittle the fashion benefits. 😉

  13. I too have pale blue eyes and find bright light unbearable. When I travel I always take a spare pair in case I lose them or they ‘collapse’.
    Its not always possible to buy a pair when you need them or you can end up paying good money for ghastly glasses.

  14. I love a stylish pair of sunglasses and have a few pairs but I really struggle to wear them for too long – I feel like I can’t properly see what is going on around me! I think if I managed to wear them for longer my eyes would adjust

  15. Living in Australia sunglasses are a must have. When looking to visit Darwin a few years ago it took me an age to find large lense sunnies – it was the fashion for tiny glasses which were absolutely useless to keep the burning rays away from the eyes. So pleased there are so many fabulous eye covering styles now 🙂 Thank you,

  16. I wear my sunglasses all year. I used to be a sunglass rep so I know how important it is to wear them. My sunglasses are prescription so I have two reasons why I wear them. To protect my eyes from the harmful UV rays and the ability to see what is in front of me.

  17. I absolutely love the dress in the picture . Does anyone know what brand it is?

    And a big fat yes to sunglasses.

  18. I wear sunglasses EVERY DAY, and have since I was young. I used to switch out pairs frequently, but a few years ago I found Ray-Ban Clubmasters with a brushed aluminum frame, and I love them so much that’s all I wear now. I have green eyes, and a family history of macular degeneration, so I’m hopeful my sunglass habit helps me out. I admit to kind of wanting to get cataracts, though! My brother got cataract surgery recently, and he was beyond excited at how great his vision was afterward. I’ve been blind as a bat since I was 8, so that sounds fabulous to me!

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