THIS YEAR sees the 40th birthday of that Eighties favourite, the Ray-Ban Wayfarer. For the moment, however, the Hollywood classic looks out of date.

The best-selling Ray-Ban sunglasses this summer are small, round and wire-framed. Lenses are mirrored, or tinted shades of pink, green, yellow and blue. Small frames and light wire or aluminium frames are a reaction to the big, bug-eyed power sunglasses of the Eighties.

Italy's Mazzucchelli makes quality sunglasses that start at pounds 39. The lenses are coated with melanin, the light-protective pigment that occurs naturally in our skin and eyes.

Round and oval shapes also feature strongly in the new Emporio Armani collection, launched in January. Prices, between pounds 75- pounds 115, are about one-third cheaper than Giorgio Armani sunglasses.

This summer's round shades have humble forerunners. The National Health Service frames for 1948 were small, round and metal. Today, Manchester-based Russell& Hancock has reproduced them as sunglasses at about pounds 59.

Even the military aviation sunglasses manufacturers, Randolph Engineering, is loosening up with three styles of metal frames.

Tony Gross of Cutler & Gross makes modern sunglasses: this season's best-selling models are made of light stainless steel. He also offers the small, round, coloured-lens sunglasses that are the source of many a cheap imitation. Prices are about pounds 70.

'Beatnik' and 'Hippie' (both pounds 34) are tiny hand-made metal, rectangular frames from Kirk Originals. Any colour of lens can be fitted. For sensible sun protection, however, two larger metal-frame shapes, 'Karl' and 'Blare' provide fuller eye coverage for sun worshippers.

Ray-Bans, from all leading opticians and department stores; Mazzucchelli, from Space NK, 41 Earlham Street, London WC2, and House of Fraser, selected branches; Russell & Hancock, from American Retro, 135 Old Compton Street, London W1, Smith & Westwood, Unit 42, Clayton Square, Liverpool, and Cruise, 39 Renfield Street, Glasgow; Randolph Engineering, from Selfridges, Oxford Street, London W1; Paul Smith, 43-44 Floral Street, London WC2; House of Fraser, as before; Cutler & Gross, 16 Knightsbridge Green, SW1; Kirk Originals, from Harrods, Knightsbridge London SW1; Davies, 10 Great Newport Street WC2; Garcon, 16 St Mary's Street, Manchester.

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