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Kassia St Clair

A Matter of Taste

Round sunglasses, for men? Yes – they were good enough for Gregory Peck

Kassia St Clair | July/August 2015

As any man dithering at an airport concession stand will tell you, sunglasses can be tricky. Particularly the ones with round-framed lenses. Wearing the wrong kind will do about as much for your self-esteem as spending time in a hall of mirrors: your nose will look too long, your face too round, and you’ll have all the visual gravitas of Groucho Marx.

But it’s worth persevering. Sunglasses are a safe way to take a style risk, because – unlike optical glasses, which tend to become a semi-permanent part of someone’s facial furniture – they only get a look-in when the weather is fine. (Unless you’re the kind of person who wears their sunglasses in clubs or on underground trains, in which case you are beyond the help of this or any other column.) They are also, because of those dark, eye-concealing lenses, a touch mask-like, with all the freeing, transformative power that entails. So you can afford to have fun: use them to assume an identity that might normally feel too bold. Even if it takes a couple of goes to get it right.

Robert Roope of Black Eyewear, who has spent 50 years in the business of suiting man to frame, believes that round sunglasses have some particular challenges to beware of. The main details to look out for, he says, are the size of the bridge (the bit between the frames that curves over your nose), and where the top rim sits in relation to your brow-line when you put the glasses on. If the bridge is too large, it will mess with the proportions of your nose; if the top of the frames edges over your eyebrows, then you will begin to look, as Roope delicately puts it, “comical”.

Classic round sunglasses come in two flavours. The more challenging ones to pull off are descended from the metal-framed “teashade” variety favoured in the 1960s and 1970s by Mick Jagger, Ozzy Osbourne and John Lennon. If you’re feeling brave, and flush, try Crosby by the boutique German brand Mykita (from around £330). These add an element of aviator style to the mix, with a choice of darkly coloured rims, gold bridge and top bar, and warm grey lenses.

Ray-Ban’s Round Craft (£170) are a variant without the top bar, which takes them down a notch on the hard-to-pull-off scale. As a bonus, the “Brown Classic” version comes with the kind of warm brown lenses popular in continental Europe, which give the world a rosier hue than the grey-toned lenses that the Americans and the British tend to favour.

The second sort is less counter-culture, more “Mockingbird”-era Gregory Peck. He is so synonymous with round frames that Oliver Peoples, the high-end American brand founded in the 1980s, has a pair produced in collaboration with his estate: the Gregory Peck 47 ($410). These are relatively easy to wear, but their understated classicism and price rule them out if you’re the kind of person who wants to look up-to-date or tends to lose, sit or step on their sunglasses at least once a summer.

Black Eyewear, based in London but able to ship worldwide, has several good options that balance the demands of style, price and wearability. The Wes (£167) offers plenty of flexibility, with eight frame colours including the suitably jazzy Tan Havana (above) – all Black’s frames are named after musicians. Because the arm-joints are placed higher up the rims than they are on most round frames, it helps counterbalance the shortening effect round sunglasses can have on your face. Which means that even without film-star bones you can have film-star glasses.

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