Despite eyewear brands and luxury labels bringing out new sunglasses collections every year, there’s only so much evolution a pair of sunnies can go through. Many of the shapes we love today came out of the 50s and 60s, dialling into chunky square frames and double bridges or cat eyes and circular styles.
‘Retro’, then, is somewhat in the eye of the beholder – but there are certainly styles that seem to attach themselves to certain decades in history. So we decided to handpick some of our favourite retro-styled sunglasses on the market today from a host of eyewear upstarts and legacy brands alike.
Jacques Marie Mage Dealan
Los Angeles brand Jacques Marie Mage has developed something of a cult following since it launched in 2014, driven by the fact that it typically only releases limited production batches.
With an aesthetic that leans on the chunky square side, its designs pay tribute to the bold and angular frames of the 1950s and 60s. The Dealan is a perfect case in point: inspired by the black shades that Bob Dylan barely ever took off of his face during his world tour of the mid-60s, the rectangular frames have a subtle cat-eye silhouette that is great for square or narrow faces.
With over 300 processes involved in the making of each frame, the Dealan might be based on a retro style but it feels thoroughly modern given Mage’s acetate treatment.
Tom Ford Hawkings
Perhaps the most iconic of all vintage sunglasses shapes is the aviator, born out of military functionality (the US commissioned American Optical in 1935 to make the first D-1 style for the U.S. Army Air Corps) and immortalised in films such as Top Gun and Taxi Driver.
Tom Ford is one of the few luxury labels who seems to have nailed the modern incarnation of vintage eyewear and is often himself seen sporting a pair of aviators. We particularly love his Hawkings style because while they still conform to the classic subtle teardrop shape, Ford has made them ultra-modern thanks to the angular acetate bridge (rather than using a traditional metal frame).
The ‘Clubmaster’ is the name Ray-Ban gave to a frame style with a strong brow – typically made from acetate – with a wire lower frame around the lenses, and has come to define a whole category of sunglasses now.
Popular in the 50s and 60s as spectacles, it wasn’t until the 80s that these somewhat bookish and nerdy frames were handed their moment in the sun (Bruce Willis in Moonlighting and Michael Douglas in Falling Down).
They still have that innate preppiness to them and while plenty of contemporary variants exist, we still think that Ray-Ban’s Clubmaster is hard to beat.
With its iconic and instantly recognisable keyhole bridge, the Persol 649 is the epitome of understated timeless style as far as sunglasses are concerned. First created in 1957, they were actually designed for tram drivers in Turin who required large glasses to protect their eyes against the dust kicked up into the air while driving all day.
But it was the Italian actor and ridiculously cool Marcello Mastroianni who made them the most sought-after shades when he wore a pair in Divorce Italian Style (1961).
The fact that Persol was Steve McQueen’s sunglasses brand on and off set didn’t hinder its meteoric rise either. Today, the 649 is still as iconic as ever, and a frame that suits all face types.
Oliver Peoples Gregory Peck
Legendary eyewear maker Oliver People’s collaborated with the Peck Estate to produce a replica of the glasses that actor Gregory Peck wore in the 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
It’s usually the seersucker suit that Peck gets props for wearing in the film, but his glasses are also worthy of cultural icon status. With a round aspect to the frame, and a keyhole bridge design, the Peck frames are understated and effortless.
There are no embellishments or bells and whistles nor does there need to be – they are a beautifully composed shape that ooze class.
Everything you need to know about Retrosuperfuture’s aesthetic is in the name. The Italian eyewear specialist, founded in 2007 by Daniel Beckerman, takes retro shapes and gives them a super-futuristic spin, the result being a collection of bold shades that make a hell of a statement.
The Aalto Classic is one of our favourite styles, inspired by the chunky rectangular acetate frames of the 50s and 60s but seen through an oversized lens. A great way to announce your arrival this summer, or to shut out the world, depending on your mood.
Handcrafted in the heart of Berlin since 2003, Mykita frames are synonymous with high quality materials and exemplary craftsmanship, with a special emphasis on their minimalistic metal frames.
One such style is the Wilder, a stunning double-bridge aviator constructed from light stainless steel. It’s squarer than the traditional aviator shape, but that double-bridge design gives the matte silver frames a retro finish.
Barton Perreira 007 Avtak
The various and many incarnations of Ian Fleming’s James Bond has catalysed no small amount of sunglasses trends over the decades. The world’s favourite spy has worn a number of styles in the film franchise but there’s one shape he didn’t that stands out for us, and that’s the aviators worn by Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) in A View to a Kill.
Eyewear specialists Barton Perreira have dutifully remade the iconic style in a limited edition run, crafted from bi-colored titanium and in five different frame/lens combinations. If they were good enough for Christopher Walken…
Japanese eyewear brand Matsuda is one of the OGs of sunglasses manufacturing, applying an unprecedented level of craftsmanship and finesse to every handmade frame. Matsuda’s sunglasses are quite literally works of art, although you’ll pay for the privilege of being one of the few in the know.
If you have the cash to splash then let us direct you to the iconic 10601H model, first crafted in 1997 and taking inspiration from the pince-nez style popular in the late 1800s. The round shape is complemented by round nose pads and rim wire that features the brand’s signature Matsuda engraving, all brought to life by hand in Fukui, the Japanese eyewear Mecca.
Dita Mach Eight
If you’re serious about your sunglasses, then you’ll know all about DITA, the luxury eyewear specialist founded in 1995. The brand’s first collection referenced vintage designs from the 50s and 60s and since then it has continued to produce Japanese-finished frames of the very highest order, using incredibly light beta-titanium.
Why Japan? Because it’s the only place in the world where you’ll find artisans skilled and experienced enough to make frames like the 80s-inspired Mach Eight with its enamelled two-piece brow inlay and titanium grille.
With a modern sporty vibe and oozing character, they certainly make a statement.