If there is one thing that is not talked about enough, it is the timeless and influencing power vintage sunglasses had on inspiring modern fashion. Though we are headfirst into the modernized age and the market is flooded with sunglass options, there has always been a strong appeal in incorporating vintage styles to bring a bit of the past into the present. If you really think about it, fashion and pop culture, in general, are in an endless feedback loop, meaning the largest, most significant trends in eyewear stem back from their initial popularity moments in time.


In an essence, what you see on the runway and in stores today were strongly fostered by its predecessors, and that history of vintage fashion, especially in regards to vintage sunglasses, is certainly worth highlighting.


The History of Vintage Sunglasses


It is no secret that there is quite the sunglasses evolution in place since the 1960s to today. To give you a breakdown of the alterations that occurred, here is a list of the most trend shifting ways throughout time.


The 1960s: This was the decade of the dramatic cat-eye sunglasses. In most cases back then, this style was closely seen as a feminine frame. They were big, had raised corners, and really took off after the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” film launched.


The late 1960s: Coming in a bit later, the rise of the oversized, dark shades began to rise in popularity. The bold, beautiful colors and shapes, along with celebrity representations, made this style boom.


The 1970s: Thanks to John Lennon, after releasing his solo career in the 70s, he branded the tiny round sunglasses design, and it hit the mainstream. Today, they are still seen as a “hippie” staple.


The late 1970s: Though the tiny glasses era lasted a while, the rise of the disco scene brought back the desire for large shades again, but lighter tinted this time.


The 1980s: As the year of maximalist trends, the 1980s were filled with any sunglasses that would demonstrate art and funk, such as the notable "robot classes." In addition, wayfarers and aviators made a comeback after Tom Cruise labeled them as "cool kid" shades, and hip-hop artist Run DMC for his mental glam glasses. Another one was the brow lines style, which Bruce Willis made a trend again from the tv show “Moonlighting.”


The 1990s: Welcome to when hologram sunglasses were born. These edgy styles were designed to reflect individuality and give off a distinct look. In conjunction with the surface of colorful ovals, small round glasses, and futuristic styles coming back again, this demonstrates how sunglasses trends clearly come in waves.


The 2000s: Tinted aviators and oversized frames were a priority at the beginning of the 2000s. Later, shiny, reflective sunglasses became more prominent, worn by various celebrities as a way to shield themselves better from the public eye. Though the styles themselves seem to have been rinsed and repeated throughout history, the manufacturing processes during this time drastically improved, making sunglasses usage more about eye protection while still staying in the fashion scene.


Do you see a pattern here? When scholars say that history repeats itself, that does hold some truth to a degree. Trends might be slightly different in favored styles and colors, but the same foundation seems to be sticking, and it is all based on the parent sunglasses from the very beginning.


The Vintage Sunglasses and Celebrity Connections


Now, if there is one thing that has been evident then to now, it is that where celebrities go, fashion follows. Though you probably caught on to this notion from above, it really does have a large part in part, present, and likely future trend-setting outcomes in just about every fashion corner.


For example, did you know that Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the wife of the 35th United States president, John F. Kennedy was a cornerstone role model for sunglasses in the 1960s? Wearing her iconic oversized sunglasses in that timeframe was one of the leading reasons why wearing such products became a massive trend amongst Americans during that time. But she was not the only one, of course. Other celebrity influencers such as Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy, Tom Cruise, and John Lennon with his famous round colorful sunglasses all contributed to the race towards sunglass fashion.


In the present day, this reality still holds true. When hot celebrities in the spotlight like Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, and Gigi Hadid showcase something new and vibrant, people who admire them idolize that and strive to follow. It is human nature to seek change and transformations, and that very humanistic trait is what has grown the ever-evolving fashion world to the monumental beast it has become.


Vintage Sunglasses and Modern Trends in 2020


After reviewing the history and how wearing vintage sunglasses has come about in the first place, you might be wondering how this all ties into modern fashion. With vintage being older and modern being newer, it can be hard to see the correlation on a surface level. But it’s there, and the proof is in the 2020 sunglasses trends that are going on right now.

According to Kraywoods, the top trends in 2020 are a rise in:


Retro square sunglasses: which were first introduced about a half a century ago.


Retro round sunglasses: a vintage classic making a scene on the 2020 runways.


Winged Cat-Eyes: Just like Audrey Hepburn mentioned above, winged cat-eyes are still heavily sophisticated options popular today as people are seeking bold showstopper apparel.


Silver and Gold Metal Accents: Metal frames with advanced UV protection add that retro vibe to any style.


These are just some trends, but you get the idea; the 2020 fashion year is all about oversized, geometric shapes that are reminiscent of the 70s and 80s. They are sleek, stand out from the crowd, and modern with a vintage twist. In summary, the progression of vintage sunglasses is still manifesting and upgrading UV protection, all while still keeping the same feelings of the past eras alive.


Conclusion - Advancing Your Modern Fashion Style with Vintage Vibes


Since first introduced in the 1200s by Sam Foster, sunglasses have clearly come a long way since then, really taking off in popularity in the 20th century as the world began to recognize their sartorial appeal. Between the durability of wearing vintage sunglasses to their catalyst effects on future generational trends, it is no wonder why these styles have withstood the test of time. This, mixed with their celebrity connection, they have been branded as an integral part of fashion then and now, and that is something worth celebrating.


Today, the market for vintage sunglasses is a large one, and the interest in these pieces not only reflect nostalgia and enhance style, but create underlying ideas for future eyewear developments within the industry. Even top eyewear designers are recreating the 70s, 80s, and 90s style in terms of color, shapes, and sizes to enhance stylish features while improving functionality. But what makes them so unique and sought after is their historical value and impressions they have made along the way.


As a final note, always remember that vintage only stays vintage for so long until it becomes an antique. Sure, there will be a continuous generational strand forming, but there is a limited number of 70-90s vintage sunglasses out there in the world. So make sure you get your own pair to advance your modern fashion style while you still can.

September 24, 2020 — Ben Yhouda Ben Loulou

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