Fashion: It's cooler in the shades

If you want to look chilled even when you're frying this summer, you'll need some stylish sunglasses. At least they'll save you from squinting at the talent

Sunglasses used to be a mere afterthought on the fashion front. They received scant mention in style bibles and magazines, being nothing more than a last-minute buy at the airport along with a Frisbee, a tube of Factor 15 sun lotion and a bottle of Quick Tan. But not any more. It may have taken some time for us Brits to catch on - we are a nation suffering semi-permanent sun famine, after all - but sunglasses are now considered a wardrobe essential, a sign of self-expression and, since fashion designers began lending their names and logos, the most powerful of summer status symbols.

That said, we still wouldn't dream of looking all Italian, coolly speeding around on a Vespa with no head protection save a pair of Dolce & Gabbana shades clamped to our faces. Nor do we aspire to the innate vanity of the French, who are told at a tender age (boys as well as girls) not to venture outside during the summer months without wearing protective (and achingly stylish) eyewear to prevent squinting or, quelle horreur, wrinkles.

That's not to say that we don't love our shades. We may be utterly hopeless with our summer wardrobes - what's the point in investing effort and expense in a bunch of clothes that may well be worn for only a couple of weeks abroad? And we may be useless at looking after our pasty complexions - preferring to fry ourselves a shade of prickly pink, than patiently paste on the lotion.

In fact, as a nation we are completely at odds with a stylish summer lifestyle. Face it. We choose egg-and-chips-twice rather than a healthy portion of tortilla; we prefer a round of beers or sickly sweet cocktails to a fine bottle of beaujolais; and we would rather buy a tacky T-shirt that reads "My brother went to Majorca and all I got was this bloody T- shirt", than a local hand-crafted lace tablecloth.

Fear not, though. There is one thing we can get right in summer - arguably over and above our stylish European neighbours - and that's our sunglasses.

Perhaps it is because we are avid film watchers and have consequently learned that a simple, or indeed not so simple, pair of shades wields power. We know, for instance, that a pair of sunglasses can conjure up mystery - Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe and just about any other screen siren you care to mention was never without her shades - incognito and glamorous in one fell swoop.

Today's stars have also learnt the trick; so much so, that some are more recognisable with their sunglasses than without. Take Anna Wintour, the editor of American Vogue, a superstar in the fashion world, whose facial features are barely known because she hides behind vast black blinkers. Some say this is because she doesn't want to be seen to have nodded off on fashion's front row; others claim it is because she doesn't want to give anything away to the competition. Whatever the reason, sunglasses obviously serve more than the purpose for which they were originally intended; bad hangovers instantly spring to mind.

Ultimately, though, shades are cool. Ray-Ban, in particular, the best- known sunglasses producer, has proved this time and again by having its product strategically placed on celluloid. When Tom Cruise appeared in Top Gun as the hero fighter pilot we knew he would save the day and get the girl, because he looked so slick and capable in his Ray-Ban Aviators. When the cast of Reservoir Dogs strode across the screen in slow motion, it wasn't just their sharp black suits that signalled trouble, it was the Ray-Ban Wayfarers they were wearing.

Both of these styles are still popular today, but it was when fashion designers - first with Giorgio Armani - began licensing their names to manufacturers that, with a bottle of perfume or a silk tie, everyone could buy into designer kudos without breaking the bank. According to Emma Gladdish, buyer of sunglasses at Harvey Nichols in London, it is the Gucci brand which currently out-sells all others. Although the new hot contender for the number one slot this summer is Chloe, designed by our very own Stella McCartney. Gladdish says that the store is receiving around 20 calls a day from customers who are desperate to get their hands on the most popular Chloe style, which is similar to a classic Aviator, but with the inimitable McCartney touch - a diamante heart set into one of the lenses (pounds 120, pictured).

Harvey Nichols also offers a pair of sunglasses, designed by Philippe Starck and produced by Alain Mikli, which is said to be suitable for any face shape. "They look sleek, a bit space age, with lenses that are rounded at the bottom and straight at the top, but the arms adjust and can rotate through 360 degrees, so they won't break," says Gladdish. The drawback is the price - from pounds 200.

If you have problems finding sunglasses, or optical frames for that matter, that suit your face, try Kirk Originals, based in London's Covent Garden (or mail order 0171 240 5055). The store has a "mirror multi-view" camera which takes pictures of you in four of your favourite styles and then prints out the results, so you can see at a glance what suits you best.

Most sunglasses retailers agree that round is out and squarish or oval shapes are the style to buy this summer, and that coloured frames, rather than traditional black or tortoiseshell, are taking the UK by storm. Get all the trends in one pair from David Clulow's range, which includes soft squares in two-tone red (pictured), blue and green, from pounds 69.95.

If you buy one thing this summer make sure it's a pair of shades; after all they are the epitome of cool. But be warned: the rule that big shades suit big features and small suit small features isn't necessarily reliable. That said, if you can't get to the Kirk Originals store, take a trusted, honest friend with you, or suffer people running for the bug-killer every time they see you.

Clockwise from top left:

Khaki thin-wire frames, pounds 70, by French Connection, 249 Regent Street, London W1 and stores nationwide (0171-399 7200)

Les sunglasses, pounds 150, by Kirk Originals, 36 Earlham Street, London WC2 (0171-240 50555)

Diamante heart sunglasses, pounds 135, by Chloe, from Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW1 and selected stores nationwide (01635-529 997)

Leopard-spot sunglasses, pounds 85, by Valentino, from Selfridges, Oxford Street, London W1 and stores nationwide (01423 538005)

Red perspex sunglasses, pounds 69.95, by David Clulow, 41-43 Wigmore Street, London W1 (0181-864 4040)

Mirror-frame sunglasses, pounds 35, by Fabris Lane, from Dickins and Jones, Regent Street, London W1 and other House of Fraser stores nationwide (0181-974 1642)

Checked sunglasses, pounds 75, by Burberry, 165 Regent Street, London W1 and selected opticians nationwide (01423 5380055)

Lilac perspex sunglasses, pounds 95, by Gucci, from Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1 and stores nationwide (01423 538005)

Cream sunglasses, pounds 99, by Calvin Klein, from Dolland and Aitchison, Regent Street, London W1 and opticians nationwide (0800 7220202)

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players