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 and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tv Review: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series began tonight with a feature-length special
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee