Nowadays, there are countless types of sunglasses. From sunglasses with mirror glasses to clip-on sunglasses—there are not only different shades of glass but there are also different forms of sunglasses. 

Some of these have been given iconic status. The classic cat-shaped sunglasses and pilot sunglasses are among the most famous styles. Just like any other type of fashion, the styles and looks of sunglasses have changed. 

Sunglasses in movies have especially influenced style over the years, and often reflect the prevailing spirit of the times. We compiled an overview of different fashion icons and their influence on sunglasses.

The Story of When Sunglasses Met Fashion infographic

1950s: Grace Kelly’s Royal Style

In 1956, the American actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier from Monaco. Before and after her marriage, Princess Grace was often seen wearing black sunglasses. Her distinctive style of square sunglasses influenced the prevailing fashion and is still seen today as the very definition of elegant vintage sunglasses.

1960s: Breakfast at Tiffany’s Sunglasses

When Audrey Hepburn put on the famous cat-shaped sunglasses for the iconic movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, she created a long-standing trend. The iconic shape is so closely linked to the actress that they are sometimes also called Audrey Hepburn sunglasses. It may have been the first time that sunglasses from movies had a big impact on fashion trends but certainly not the last. Popular sunglasses from the 60’s mostly followed Hepburn’s classic example.

1970s: Nothing in Between

Two iconic shapes come to mind when you think of sunglasses from the ‘70s. On the one hand, there were the oversized frames, but on the other hand, there were the small round sunglasses, which were often worn by John Lennon. Frames that are often called John Lennon sunglasses are mainly associated with the hippie culture of the 60s and 70s. These glasses were worn in several colors such as blue, red and pink.

1980s: Between Top Gun and Eccentric Sunglasses in the 80s

Top Gun (1986) is the movie that made pilot sunglasses for men modern. The pair worn by actor Tom Cruise were green with gold-colored bows. Despite the film’s popularity, many pilot sunglasses are associated with police sunglasses. 

These so-called police sunglasses were often used by Erik Estrada in his role as Officer Francis “Ponch” Poncherello in the popular TV series CHiPS. As Estrada played a cop, the connection between the iconic shape and the nickname for this type of sunglasses became even more established.

One person who will always be remembered for his eccentric choices of sunglasses is Sir Elton John. His choice may not always be suitable for everyday use. But they were among the most creative and unique sunglasses in history. Elton John was often seen wearing sunglasses in rhinestones, oversized sunglasses or other types of hip sunglasses.

1990s: Supermodel Elegance

The 1990s were undoubtedly the decade of supermodels. Popular models such as Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer chose stylish frames and dark shades. Elegant small patterns dominated the fashion industry and grunge elegance was a bold counterpoint to the otherwise colorful and lively decade of fashion. In the late 1990s, several major films were produced that featured popular sunglasses. The most famous example is probably the sunglasses from the Matrix movies, with Keanu Reeves.

2000s: Heroic Sunglasses

At the turn of the century, Marvel turned the comic book X-Men into a series of movies. James Marsden wore red sunglasses in his role as Cyclops because his character used them to keep his power under control. The arches were quite narrow and bent around the face shape.

Another major trend in the 2000s was sunglasses without frames worn by stars such as Paris Hilton. Often worn colors include blue, red and various shades of pink. Sometimes the glasses were covered with small crystals or otherwise decorated.

2010s: The Name’s Bond

Ryan Gosling sported a pair of auburn tortoise-colored pilot-style glasses while stunt driving and leisurely riding elevators in Nicolas Winding Refn’s debut film, The Driver, in 2011, and they quickly became fashionable again.

In 2015 Daniel Craig made his fourth outing as James Bond, in the movie Spectre. The Tom Ford Snowden glasses he wore in the funeral scene became instant classics for their definitive formal look.

We wonder what new, and returning styles the 2020s will bring?



Keith is the founder of Sunglasses Search. He worked for a number of years at a well-known sunglasses brand, starting as a sales assistant and working his way up to assistant manager where he developed his love and in-depth knowledge for sunglasses.

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