Summer Sunglasses Are the Cherry on Top of Any Seasonal Sartorial Sundae

Lindsey Lanquist
Summer Sunglasses Are the Cherry on Top of Any Seasonal Sartorial Sundae
Photo: Candace Napier Ross.

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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?

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

1. The Book Club Jaunty Pisco Reader, $29.95 at Free People

Dreamy and delightful.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

2. Crap Eyewear the Star Child Sunglasses, $75 at Urban Outfitters

Giving new meaning to the phrase “starry-eyed.”

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

3. Peaches Slim Sunglasses, $26 at Topshop

A vintage frame with a classic lens.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

4. Planet i Moonwalker Sunglasses, $59.99 at Urban Outfitters

You thought I was kidding.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

5. Set Your Sights High Square Sunglasses, $10 at Nasty Gal

Aughtsy—but it’s ironic now, so it’s OK.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

6. Rounded Aviator Sunglasses, $18 at Urban Outfitters

Veritably chic.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

7. Jones Sunglasses, $38 at Free People

Opaque enough to actually, maybe, protect you from the sun—despite the light lens color.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

8. Electra Sporty Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $9.99 at Urban Outfitters

Basically just iridescent eyeglasses—but honestly, who’s complaining?

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

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.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

10. Molly Triangle Gunglasses, $26 at Topshop

Absolute Instagram fodder.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

11. Cindy Crystal Slim Sunglasses, $30 at Topshop

On the plus side, impractical sunnies are fit for wear on even the cloudiest, rainiest days.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

12. Matters of the Heart Sunglasses, $8 at Nasty Gal

Be the walking embodiment of the heart-eye emoji. Because you can.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

13. Stevie Rimless Hexagon Sunglasses, $18 at Urban Outfitters

Come to think of it, who needs rims, anyway?

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

14. Go Sports Shield Sunglasses, $19.95 at Free People

Fashion’s take on dad’s early 2000s sunnies.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

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.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

16. Ray-Ban Round Flash Sunglasses, $178 at Urban Outfitters

Quite literally flashy.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

17. Heartbeat Mono-Cut Heart Sunglasses, $16 at Urban Outfitters

Heart-eye sunnies are, somehow, more fun when it isn’t Valentine’s Day.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

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?

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

19. Bella Slim Oval Sunglasses, $14 at Urban Outfitters

Practically inviting you to play dress up.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

20. Crap Eyewear the Doctor Love Sunglasses, $75 at Urban Outfitters

Go full power move and wear these indoors.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

21. Macy Full Visor Sunglasses, $38 at Topshop

Surface area? Check. Appearance? Check. Practicality—who needs it?

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

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.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

23. Pointy Polly Sunglasses, $35 at Topshop

Now these—these are ready to banish the sun from your view.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

24. Planet i Flamethrowers Sunglasses, $109.99 at Urban Outfitters

I mean. Badass.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

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.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

26. Quay Australia Hearsay Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $25 at ASOS

Is it intellectually possible for cat-eye sunglasses to go out of style?

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

27. Rounded Tinted Aviator Sunglasses, $9.99 at Urban Outfitters

A new kind of aviator.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

28. Tort Shell Diamante Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $10 at Nasty Gal

Rhinestones are always a good idea.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

29. Riley Round Aviator Sunglasses, $10 at Urban Outfitters

Willy Wonka-inspired, Urban Outfitters-approved.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

30. Home Is Where the Heart Is Shades, $8 at Nasty Gal

Forget wearing your heart on your sleeve.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

31. Rimless Lip-Shape Sunglasses, $35 at Topshop

Give off subtle kissy emoji vibes, no matter where you wander.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

32. Thelma Oval Sunglasses, $26 at Topshop

I have no qualms admitting these navy sunnies are cooler than I am.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

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.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

34. Le Specs Body Bumpin, $59 at Revolve

Too distracted by the name “body bumpin” to comment on these shades’ appearance.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

35. Metro Round Red Sunglasses, $22 at Topshop

La vie en rose awaits.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

36. Holographic Visor Shade Sunglasses, $12 at Urban Outfitters

Sunglasses that double as a literal sun visor.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

37. Pared Eyewear Romeo and Juliet Oversized Sunglasses, $179.99 at Urban Outfitters

A new take on bug-eye sunnies.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

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.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

39. Bella Rimless Sunglasses, $26 at Topshop

Bella Hadid has been trying to resurrect this frame for, like, a year now.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

40. Off the Chain Glasses, $5 at Nasty Gal

Eye-catching in more ways than one.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

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.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

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.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

43. Gabriella Pearl Sunglasses, $25 at Free People

Because you deserve more than one avenue to express your love of pearls, don’t you?

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

44. Candy Shop Shield Sunglass, $19.95 at Free People

Shielding your eyes just became even easier.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

45. Pink Wrap Half-Frame Visor Sunglasses, $19 at ASOS

Make dad proud.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

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.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

47. Slender Oval Plum Sunglasses, $26 at Topshop

Sure to pair well with chic power suits and “ugly” retro ensembles, alike.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

48. Coco Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $16 at Urban Outfitters

Your vintage-obsessed friend already added these to her cart.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

49. Molly Triangle Sunglasses, $26 at Topshop

You’ll be seeing rainbows everywhere you go.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

50. Reese Slim Rectangle Sunglasses, $18 at Urban Outfitters

Also available in an equally cool olive green iteration.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

51. Are You That Somebody Small Sunglasses, $8 at Nasty Gal

So minimalist you might not even realize they’re there.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

52. Palm Springs Striped Sunglasses, $25 at Free People

For a good time, juxtapose these with your favorite striped swimsuit.

Best Summer Sunglasses 2019 | 53 Pairs to Shop | STYLECASTER

53. Flat Top Sunglasses, $9.50 at ASOS

Don’t lie—you owned these in elementary school.

 

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