WHEN the sun shone recently on Camden Town in north London, sunglasses sold faster than ice-creams. Stalls lined up their displays of sunspecs, many of them imitations of more expensive brand names. Round metal frames were much in evidence, as were glasses with coloured lenses.

Surprisingly, few of the people we spoke to were wearing brand-name sunglasses and many of these cost a mere pounds 2.99. Whether such bargains give adequate protection against the sun is questionable.

Only glass and toughened lenses are tested properly for ultraviolet (UV) protection. A more expensive version, such as the G15 lens used in Ray-Bans, gives almost complete protection from UV rays, although a 'name' can add on unnecessary costs.

For those who want neither brand names nor reproductions, original Fifties, Sixties and Seventies frames are still widely available. On Sundays, the stall on Chalk Farm Road, just before Camden Lock bridge, mixes old and new sunspecs. Junk shops and second-hand clothing specialists still turn over a fair number of old sunglasses at bargain prices. Most opticians offer a cleaning service and will fit good quality UV filter lenses.

Having a pair of old sunglasses reconditioned might cost you more than a pair from Camden Market, but they will be one-offs and your eyes will be well protected, too. Abi Abira, a stallholder at the market, had tinted lenses made for his mother's reading glasses. 'They're about 35 years old, older than me,' he says. Some hip mother - Abi's were the most modern-looking shades we saw.

(Photographs omitted)