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I’m not entirely sure of the origins of summer sunglasses, but I suspect the story went something like this: Summer sunglasses were once a necessary evil. On the sunniest, most delightful summer days, the blistering sun couldn’t be contained—leaving the world blinded (and in dire need of sunscreen). The era’s “it” girls lamented that they had to ruin otherwise perfectly balanced outside with something so clunky and dark; how dare anything disrupt their carefully crafted aesthetics? As time went on, however, the future Instagram stars of 2019 got their way. Sunglasses were no longer all function, no form; design became as necessary as practicality. Style and sun protection would never be mutually exclusive again. The “it” girls lived happily ever after—and everyone else did, too.
Whether or not this imagined oral history of summer sunglasses is true, there’s one nugget of reality embedded within it: Sunglasses used to be exclusively practical. Think of the sunglasses that pervaded your youth. They were ugly—and that was before “ugly” fashion was “cool” and “trendy” and “self-aware.” There was no irony embedded in those visor sunglasses your dad used to wear on family vacations. They were there for one purpose and one purpose only: To protect your dad’s precious eyes as he navigated unfamiliar highways in the stale-smelling rental car you snagged at the airport.
These days, though, we’ve all but inverted this expectation. Sunglasses are veritably cool accessories so decorative that, sometimes, they don’t even protect your eyes from the sun at all. The line between sunglasses and eyeglasses has become so blurred that when I stumbled upon a pair of clear, glitter-adorned eyeglasses labeled “sunglasses,” I wasn’t remotely surprised. I mean, the lenses were littered with silver glitter that would surely obfuscate the wearer’s vision, and eyeglasses are supposed to help you see more clearly. Have we reached an age where sunglasses are no longer defined by what makes them sunglasses—their ability to protect the wearer from the sun—but instead by what makes them not eyeglasses?
These are strange times we live in, but what’s exciting is this: The great sunglass identity crisis of 2019 has blessed us with a veritable plethora of cute summer sunglasses to peruse, to buy, to wear. And really, who has time for existentialism when there’s so much shopping to be done?
1. The Book Club Jaunty Pisco Reader, $29.95 at Free People
Dreamy and delightful.
2. Crap Eyewear the Star Child Sunglasses, $75 at Urban Outfitters
Giving new meaning to the phrase “starry-eyed.”
3. Peaches Slim Sunglasses, $26 at Topshop
A vintage frame with a classic lens.
4. Planet i Moonwalker Sunglasses, $59.99 at Urban Outfitters
You thought I was kidding.
5. Set Your Sights High Square Sunglasses, $10 at Nasty Gal
Aughtsy—but it’s ironic now, so it’s OK.
6. Rounded Aviator Sunglasses, $18 at Urban Outfitters
7. Jones Sunglasses, $38 at Free People
Opaque enough to actually, maybe, protect you from the sun—despite the light lens color.
8. Electra Sporty Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $9.99 at Urban Outfitters
Basically just iridescent eyeglasses—but honestly, who’s complaining?
9. Loves Me Not Flower Round Sunglasses, $16 at Urban Outfitters
So cute you’ll have a hard time picking which color to wear. So affordable you could probably just buy them all and delay the decision-making process even further.
10. Molly Triangle Gunglasses, $26 at Topshop
Absolute Instagram fodder.
11. Cindy Crystal Slim Sunglasses, $30 at Topshop
On the plus side, impractical sunnies are fit for wear on even the cloudiest, rainiest days.
12. Matters of the Heart Sunglasses, $8 at Nasty Gal
Be the walking embodiment of the heart-eye emoji. Because you can.
13. Stevie Rimless Hexagon Sunglasses, $18 at Urban Outfitters
Come to think of it, who needs rims, anyway?
14. Go Sports Shield Sunglasses, $19.95 at Free People
Fashion’s take on dad’s early 2000s sunnies.
15. Crap Eyewear the Love Tempo Sunglasses, $59.99 at Urban Outfitters
The kind of thing you hope to dig out of a thrift shop bin.
16. Ray-Ban Round Flash Sunglasses, $178 at Urban Outfitters
Quite literally flashy.
17. Heartbeat Mono-Cut Heart Sunglasses, $16 at Urban Outfitters
Heart-eye sunnies are, somehow, more fun when it isn’t Valentine’s Day.
18. ’90s Kid Oval Sunglasses, $12.95 at Free People
Another pair of sunnies that’s basically just a pair of semi-dark eyeglasses. But hey. They’re cool. Who cares?
19. Bella Slim Oval Sunglasses, $14 at Urban Outfitters
Practically inviting you to play dress up.
20. Crap Eyewear the Doctor Love Sunglasses, $75 at Urban Outfitters
Go full power move and wear these indoors.
21. Macy Full Visor Sunglasses, $38 at Topshop
Surface area? Check. Appearance? Check. Practicality—who needs it?
22. Flyin’ High Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $14.95 at Free People
Sunglasses sure to keep you looking like you marched straight off a runway—even when you’re sweating on the beach.
23. Pointy Polly Sunglasses, $35 at Topshop
Now these—these are ready to banish the sun from your view.
24. Planet i Flamethrowers Sunglasses, $109.99 at Urban Outfitters
I mean. Badass.
25. Vintage Sportee Shield Sunglasses, $12.99 at Urban Outfitters
Sure to play as well with your ski suits as they do with your swimsuits.
26. Quay Australia Hearsay Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $25 at ASOS
Is it intellectually possible for cat-eye sunglasses to go out of style?
27. Rounded Tinted Aviator Sunglasses, $9.99 at Urban Outfitters
A new kind of aviator.
28. Tort Shell Diamante Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $10 at Nasty Gal
Rhinestones are always a good idea.
29. Riley Round Aviator Sunglasses, $10 at Urban Outfitters
Willy Wonka-inspired, Urban Outfitters-approved.
30. Home Is Where the Heart Is Shades, $8 at Nasty Gal
Forget wearing your heart on your sleeve.
31. Rimless Lip-Shape Sunglasses, $35 at Topshop
Give off subtle kissy emoji vibes, no matter where you wander.
32. Thelma Oval Sunglasses, $26 at Topshop
I have no qualms admitting these navy sunnies are cooler than I am.
33. Macy Full Visor Sunglasses, $38 at Topshop
They might not keep the sun from your eyes, but they’ll surely keep you looking all kinds of cool.
34. Le Specs Body Bumpin, $59 at Revolve
Too distracted by the name “body bumpin” to comment on these shades’ appearance.
35. Metro Round Red Sunglasses, $22 at Topshop
La vie en rose awaits.
36. Holographic Visor Shade Sunglasses, $12 at Urban Outfitters
Sunglasses that double as a literal sun visor.
37. Pared Eyewear Romeo and Juliet Oversized Sunglasses, $179.99 at Urban Outfitters
A new take on bug-eye sunnies.
38. Cruz Rimless Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $18 at Urban Outfitters
I don’t care if you did a straight-up rain dance to wish for tiny sunnies to exit the zeitgeist. They’re back, baby.
39. Bella Rimless Sunglasses, $26 at Topshop
Bella Hadid has been trying to resurrect this frame for, like, a year now.
40. Off the Chain Glasses, $5 at Nasty Gal
Eye-catching in more ways than one.
41. Raven Rimless Hexagon Sunglasses, $18 at Urban Outfitters
Don’t fret, fans of practicality—the black rendition is sure to shield your eyes at least a little bit.
42. Planet i Extraterrestrial Sunglasses, $69.99 at Urban Outfitters
Glitter lenses may be low-key ill-advised, but they’re definitely having a moment.
43. Gabriella Pearl Sunglasses, $25 at Free People
Because you deserve more than one avenue to express your love of pearls, don’t you?
44. Candy Shop Shield Sunglass, $19.95 at Free People
Shielding your eyes just became even easier.
45. Pink Wrap Half-Frame Visor Sunglasses, $19 at ASOS
Make dad proud.
46. Glinda Rosey Aviator Sunglasses, $19.95 at Free People
Oversized plastic aviators weren’t a thing I knew I needed—but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little tempted.
47. Slender Oval Plum Sunglasses, $26 at Topshop
Sure to pair well with chic power suits and “ugly” retro ensembles, alike.
48. Coco Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $16 at Urban Outfitters
Your vintage-obsessed friend already added these to her cart.
49. Molly Triangle Sunglasses, $26 at Topshop
You’ll be seeing rainbows everywhere you go.
50. Reese Slim Rectangle Sunglasses, $18 at Urban Outfitters
Also available in an equally cool olive green iteration.
51. Are You That Somebody Small Sunglasses, $8 at Nasty Gal
So minimalist you might not even realize they’re there.
52. Palm Springs Striped Sunglasses, $25 at Free People
For a good time, juxtapose these with your favorite striped swimsuit.
53. Flat Top Sunglasses, $9.50 at ASOS
Don’t lie—you owned these in elementary school.
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