Contrary to popular belief, sunglasses are not just for when it’s warm. Here at Ape, we’re constantly baffled as to why the squinting masses don’t just commit to a great-looking pair of shades and carry them everywhere as a daily essential – just like they do with normal spectacles.
Not only are sunglasses a constantly neglected chance to add flair, personality and a general sense of unwavering cool to an outfit, they’re also imperative for keeping your eyes healthy. Blocking damaging UV rays – whether on an unexpected sunny winter’s day or at the height of summer – is important. Doing it in style is even better.
Comprising timeless designs and contemporary icons, below we’ve pulled together our edit of the best sunglasses styles for this summer. Trust us, all that squinting is going to give you wrinkles.
First, here are a number of things you should consider carefully before committing to a new pair of sunglasses, from face shape to lens quality.
The sunglasses face shape debate is a minefield, but there are certain conventions to follow. If your face is longer than it is wide – with softer lines around your cheeks and jaw – the last thing you want to do is make it appear longer, so avoid anything too small or John Lennon-like. Luckily, the rest of the sunglasses world is your oyster, so feel free to choose between square and rounder styles, with oversized and drop (think aviators) silhouettes working particularly well too.
For the rest of us, the rules are a little trickier. Round and curved styles help soften sharper facial features such as pronounced cheeks and squarer jaws. Square frames with rounded corners can also work, but too much geometric shaping can emphasise your angles and appear quite brutal.
Square faces (similar length and width) lend themselves to rounder styles, while rounder faces will benefit from a bit more structure and definition. If ever in doubt, the classic Wayfarer is a universal style that works for almost all men, so start from there.
When comparing frames, it’s worth considering colour, material and detailing. Certain features, such as a double bridge or thicker rims, will accentuate particular parts of the face, drawing attention to a bushy brow or chiselled cheek bones. Bold colours have a similar effect, although it’s easier to get away with a splash of colour on a thinner frame. Tortoiseshell, black and metal frames are timeless options that will never go out of fashion.
Acetate and metal are the go-to frame materials for most (read: high-quality) sunglasses on the market; the former being stronger and lighter than cheap, moulded plastic versions, ensuring increased durability and comfort. Metal frames, meanwhile, offer increased malleability and adjustability, lending themselves to thin and minimal designs.
Any eyewear brand worth its salt will provide you with a free protective case, so use it. It will limit scratching and damage to both your frames and lenses, ensuring longevity.
The bottom line when it comes to lenses is protection. Opt for those that offer full spectrum (100%) UV-protection, checking for the “CE” logo which guarantees they meet fundamental protection standards.
Polarised lenses are designed to block glare and help with contrast, as do some tinted versions. Mirrored and coloured lenses provide a fashionable option and feature heavily in this season’s collections. However, be aware that what is trendy today will usually fall out of favour tomorrow, so if you want value for money stick with traditional lens colours like black, grey, green and brown gradients.
Key Sunglasses Trends
Traditionally speaking, sunglasses have always been pretty simple in terms of colour variations. Your choices are typically limited to black or, if you’re feeling dangerous, tortoiseshell. With this in mind, it was only a matter of time before people began to demand something bolder and brighter – and their calls are finally being answered.
You’re probably thinking this isn’t the eyewear trend for a discerning fellow like yourself but remember, colourful needn’t be a synonym for crude. Think earthy browns and greens; translucent navy and grey; burnt orange and maroon. Exercise restraint and it’s a great way to bring a pop of personality to an otherwise minimalist outfit.
Naturally, sunglasses are transparent. Were they not, we’d routinely find ourselves bumping into things and getting lost on the way to the shops. Well, that’s true in terms of lenses, but frames on the other hand have always tended to be opaque.
Not anymore. For a few years now, see-through frames have been on the rise and this year they’re firmly established as one of the key eyewear options worthy of consideration. It’s simple, yet different; plain, yet striking; and a nice way of lending classic silhouettes a contemporary edge.
The endless trend cycle is unconcerned with our opinions. No matter how much we might want to believe that certain styles are beyond revival, sooner or later they’ll bob back to the surface. Case in point: sporty, aerodynamic shades.
Nobody is going to tell you that wraparound shades are timeless or essential. What they are, however, is one of the biggest eyewear trends of the moment. If you’re keen to retain your dignity, it’s probably best to avoid restocking your entire sunglasses collection with frameless Oakleys but on the plus side, your cycling outfit just got a little bit cooler.
Round or square. Unless you’re Elton John, that pretty much sums up the realistic options when it comes to picking a shape for your sunglasses. But that’s all beginning to change.
Geometric sunglasses are emerging as a major trend. It might sound tacky but many of the subtler styles with softened corners and hexagonal frames are surprisingly wearable. Ray-Ban has some excellent examples, or if you’re after something a bit more striking, take a look at the jagged, angular frames now being offered by the likes of Saint Laurent and Burberry.
The Coolest Sunglasses On The Market
Featuring all of our favourite sunglasses brands in one carefully curated edit, each of the designs below guarantee quality, style and protection in abundance, so you can feel completely confident in your purchase.
Key Frame: Samsø Havana Classic
Nordgreen is renowned for its high-quality, minimalist watches, and now the Copenhagen brand has applied the same design ethos to its first-ever line of sunglasses. Taking inspiration from Denmark’s small but picturesque islands, the Sunwear Collection features three classic frame shapes updated via contemporary materials and colourways.
Our pick of the three is the Samsø: a modern yet timeless unisex style characterised by its round lenses. Crafted using premium-quality bio acetate based on renewable sources, with lenses made of bio based polyamide, they come with full UV protection and are shipped in ethical packaging. So you can purchase guilt-free.
Cutler and Gross
Key Frame: 1387 Square Sunglasses-Granny Chic
Established by opticians Mr Cutler and Mr Gross in 1969, Cutler and Gross have been at the forefront of optical design for over 50 years.
The 1387 Square Sunglasses-Granny Chic is based on the humble design elements of the brands’ original 0524, but with a new design, elevated with the addition of new details including; increasing the eye size to 52mm, adding the vintage-inspired oyster pins and the ‘arrowhead’ temple design last seen on another Cutler and Gross icon; the 1346.
Key Frame: Folding Wayfarer Classic
Times may change, sea levels may rise, the doomsday clock continues to tick… but no matter what happens, the Ray-Ban Wayfarer will be a foolproof choice that never dates. Opt for classic tortoiseshell frames with light brown gradient lenses and you’ll be in good company: everyone from David Beckham to JFK to Leonardo DiCaprio has been seen sporting them over the years.
We’ve gone for the practical, foldable option as it’s a lifesaver being able to slot them into a pocket when you’re on the move.
Key Frame: SL 1
Known for their unconventional shapes, oversized silhouettes and refined luxury, Saint Laurent’s shades have been firm favourites of A-listers and fashion insiders for decades. Granted, many of the styles take some serious confidence to pull off, but not all high-fashion frames are exercises in outlandishness.
Take the SL 1 for example. This oversized, contemporary take on a classic Wayfarer style somehow manages to be both bold and restrained. It’s simple, but it commands attention, which is perhaps why it’s one of the Parisian brand’s most popular and iconic designs.
Key Frame: 714SM Steve McQueen
Originally a maker of eyewear for pilots, lightweight aviators are Persol’s bread and butter. Steve McQueen’s choice of sunglasses, the brand has released a limited-edition version of its iconic 714 frames, featuring all the same details of the original model sported by the actor in The Thomas Crown Affair (1999). If they’re good enough for The King of Cool, they’re good enough for us.
Key Frame: Aviator
Gucci began life, as so many fashion houses do, producing luxurious luggage for the upper classes. Today it’s a multifaceted high-fashion powerhouse that produces, among many other things, some of the world’s most sought-after shades.
Gucci’s take on the classic Aviator style has long been the label’s signature frame. It’s been reimagined in chunky acetate, subtle wire and just about every colour of the rainbow. Still, for what it’s worth, this simple gold and black top-bar version is the clear winner for us.
Key Frame: Brooks Sun
Los Angeles, California. People call it the City of Angels, but we think the City of Sunglasses would be equally fitting. LA’s position as the global capital of film has seen it become a hotspot for celebs in shades, but also for the brands that make them. Garrett Leight is one such name.
Named after its founder and son of fellow LA eyewear label Oliver Peoples, Garrett Leight produces some of the finest frames in not just the city, but the world. Take the Brooks Sun for example. This square-framed style is one of Garrett Leight’s bestselling models, featuring a distinctive key-hole shape.
Key Frame: Round Lens
When it comes to interesting and stylish round lens sunglasses, Thom Browne is the master. Combining minimal metal frames with contemporary twists on shape, the American designer’s circular shades demand a double take. Our pick of the bunch, above, are handmade in Japan using silver and gold-toned metal and feature subtle yet striking brow bar detailing as well as Browne’s signature tricolour stripes. A modern classic.
Key Frame: Zolman Sun
Iconic eyewear from an iconic New York family. For decades Moscot have created some of the most immediately recognisable spectacles on the market, adorning the faces of Big Apple royalty and trendsetters alike. The Zolman Sun is a classic round lens style from the brand’s archive that is great for square and oval face shapes.
We particularly like the clear frame version with green glass lenses, handcrafted using Italian acetate and incorporating subtle Moscot branding to the arms.
Key Frame: Marko Aviator Polarised
You can’t beat Tom Ford when it comes to tinted aviator swagger. The designer’s Marko shades are made in Italy and ooze 1970s cool, coming in on-trend rose gold with grey gradient polarised lenses. Ideal for longer and rectangular faces.
Key Frame: Cary Grant Sun
Producing meticulously crafted eyewear since 1987, Oliver Peoples’ glasses continue to be designed and created in their studio in West Hollywood, California. The Cary Grant Sun is inspired by the signature style worn by its namesake in the 1959 cinematic classic North by Northwest. Custom design details help to maintain the integrity of the original model, but quality is given a substantial upgrade thanks to the use of handcrafted custom acetate, hand-laid functional pins and polarised lenses.
Key Frame: Barstow
It’d be nice if we could all afford to spend upwards of £150 on a pair of sunglasses. Sadly, that’s not the world we live in, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for less. If you do find yourself struggling to find a quality frame within your budget, allow us to point you in the direction of Swedish manufacturer Monokel.
Using premium plant-based acetate, Monokel creates stylish sunglasses that keep prices down without compromising on quality. With it’s chunky, circular frame the Barstow is one of the brand’s hero styles and looks particularly handsome in trending green tortoiseshell.
Key Frame: Tonbridge
Founded in King’s Cross, London in 2013, fledgling British brand Cubitts pride themselves on craftsmanship, with every pair of sunglasses going through 50 stages of production over a six-week period. Their Tonbrudge design has been inspired by modern literary figures of the 1960s and features a flat brown bar and keyhole bridge, adding a point of difference to an otherwise round shape. Available in 11 colourways, the slate grey version offers a versatile alternative to classic black frames.
Key Frame: Hays
Another iconic sunglasses brand that prides itself on frames handmade in England, Kirk Originals are a go-to if you’re looking for classic shapes in timeless tortoiseshell colourways. Extremely wearable and with a satisfying weight to them, their Hays model is a slightly oversized, round lens silhouette that is as dynamic as it is elegant. We particularly like the dark blue gradient lenses.
Key Frame: Paulin
German eyewear brand Mykita specialises in cutting-edge styles distinguished by a progressive approach to form, construction and materials. This adds up to some truly distinctive designs that you will not find elsewhere, all featuring the latest in eyewear technology. Handcrafted in their home town of Berlin, these Paulin sunglasses – in a not-often-seen navy shade complete with striking orange detailing – are made from lightweight stainless steel and feature silicon temple tips and nose pads for comfort as well as a patented spiral hinge that makes them individually adjustable for a secure fit.