It’s a wrap

Janet Fitch takes a look through this summer’s cool sunglasses, which are a useful barometer of what’s hot in the fickle world of style

Sunglasses and celebrity go together like, well, horse and carriage. You can’t have one without the other. Celebrity and good looks are what it’s all about these days – brains, brawn and a beautiful nature are on the back burner. Celebrities wear shades, and, therefore, so do the rest of us. Sunglasses were always cool, but now they are a fashion must. You can’t leave home without them and I bet people even wear them at home.

Fashion apart, wearing sunglasses is actually good for the eyes, as one eminent eye surgeon informs me. They filter out damaging ultraviolet light and you should only buy sunglasses with 100 per cent UV protection. The best sunglasses are coated with a full UV protective filter which protects the eyes against the harmful ultra-violet rays, which can damage the cornea. Poor lenses can cause eye strain or distort vision, so it’s important to check the quality. Unfortunately, price is no guide to this – read the label carefully and you’ll find that many cheap sunglasses offer the same protection as expensive brands. Wearing sunglasses in bright light means you relax your face and keep wrinkles round your eyes to a minimum.

You should ideally wear them for outdoor sporting activities like running. Runner’s World magazine nominates its best buy as Nike Fusion 6.R., priced at £59.99. For running, sunglasses should be close-fitting, lightweight, comfortable and wraparound, and the lenses should not distort what you see. For surfing and snowboarding, the specialist shop Low Pressure in Notting Hill Gate recommends Smith, a US brand. Styles range from casual to hi-tech to ultra lightweight at prices from £45-£80. Of course, they are so super-cool they’re worn around the city as well.

Don’t worry too much about the practicalities; what really counts when it comes to sunglasses is style. The look of the moment has to be the oversize aviator style – but does it suit you? (I’ve tried them all and it certainly doesn’t suit me.)

If you’re unsure as to what looks best on you, go to any one of Dollond and Aitchison’s four hundred nationwide branches. Its Personal-Eyes image service, which uses computers, helps you choose the right frames for your face. There are four main face shapes: rectangular, oval, square and round, and your spectacle shape should be different from your facial shape. Advice from someone else is always helpful – it’s hard to judge your own reflection.

Vogue, in April 2000 said that “Y2K will be remembered for the Battle of the Sunglasses. Luxury brands are wrestling for domination with a new class of big, flashy designs… Designers have realised that in this foxy fashion moment, we’re all wearing shades 24/7. There’s just one guideline: the more stinking rich they make you look, the better.”

David Clulow branches stock all the coveted designer labels such as Chanel, Chloe, Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Helmut Lang. In the branch in Selfridges, I tried them all. Top of the most wanted list are Chloe’s aviator styles – rimless and oversized – look for the ones with the diamanté heart or the graphic tiger lenses, all designed by Stella McCartney. Also wonderfully over the top are the Chanel specs with the large gilt logo on the arms. Chanel adepts include Kate Moss, Meg Matthews and Sadie Frost. Prada are hot sellers, and so are the Gucci shades – a limited edition this summer sold out within hours.

Boys are wearing similar styles – popular brands are Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Armani and Raybans for the more conservative blokes.

Sunglasses at the moment are in – or is that on – your face, evoking the glamour and gloss of the 1970s and 1980s.

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