Features

What’s wrong with sunglasses

People who wear shades all the time seem to radiate disdain

26 July 2014

9:00 AM

26 July 2014

9:00 AM

A question to ask yourself on sunny days: are you, as you conduct your conversations with people, trying to convince them that you are Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix? You’re not? Then will you please take off your sunglasses?

Hardly anyone does these days. For whatever reason, it seems to have become acceptable over the past couple of years to engage in social intercourse with the upper half of your face entirely concealed behind several hundred quid’s worth of metal and glass. No matter that the poor person you’re talking to hasn’t got a clue what your eyes are doing, has not a single indication from the windows to your soul of how you’re reacting to their comments. It’s very off-putting, trying to gauge whether or not observations are hitting the mark solely from the twitching of someone’s mouth. (And given the amount of Botox sloshing around society these days, sometimes you haven’t even got that.) Sunglasses are the equivalent of a beard, a barrier enabling you to hide. For that very reason men with beards are mistrusted. So why is it suddenly OK for shades to perform the same function above the nose?

You’d have thought that given the existence of Bono, no sensible person would ever wear sunglasses again. But for every gnome with a God complex there’s another celebrity who suits the look. Jack Nicholson, for instance. ‘With my sunglasses on,’ he says, ‘I’m Jack Nicholson. Without them, I’m fat and 70.’ Fine, it works for him. The trouble is, plenty of plebs for whom it doesn’t work start kidding themselves. Well I hate to break it to you, Gavin from Accounts, but a pair of Ray-Bans does not a film star make.

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It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just Gavin. Yet normal people, socially well adjusted and considerate in every other area, now refuse to take off their sunglasses when they talk to you. You’re left with an impression of arrogance, of someone who deems him or herself too important to grant you eye contact. It’s vaguely intimidating, too, though somehow in a naff way. You’re presented with a cross between the Terminator and a third-rate nightclub bouncer.

To be honest, I’m not happy about people wearing sunglasses at all. Proper upstanding citizens never used to. They preferred to leave that sort of thing to dodgy characters from the underworld. Mafia bosses, for example: there’s a famous picture of 1960s mobster Sam Giancana in a pair. Ditto Lord Lambton, the Tory politician forced to resign when he was caught with a prostitute and some cannabis. How did Peter Sellers give Dr Strangelove his air of sleaze? He wore sunglasses. Back then, shades meant shady.

You certainly didn’t need them because of the British weather. I grew up during the 1970s, before global warming had been invented, and as a result didn’t see the sun until I was nine. Even when it did appear, no one felt any obligation to shield their eyes. Apart from us kids, that is. Sunglasses were a novelty item then, quite possibly incorporating a drinking straw as their frame so you could dip one end in your milkshake and slurp it all the way round your eyes to your mouth. Simple pleasures.

The late 1980s saw a slight change (Top Gun has a lot to answer for), but it’s really in the past decade that things have gone mental. That modern deity known as Fashion has come along and — as it always does — completely ruined everything. The real reason people keep their sunglasses on is, of course, to show off which brand they’re wearing. Always there’s that slight turn of the head. ‘Look at the stem,’ it says. ‘Behold the stem. You see those tiny letters? Dolce & Gabbana, mate. Minted, I am. Bloody minted.’ They might as well go the whole hog and have the left lens covered with the word ‘ker’, the right with ‘ching’.

The very worst aspect of people not taking their shades off is that you spend the entire conversation viewing your own reflection. It’s bad enough not getting ocular feedback on what you’re saying, without being constantly reminded of how terrible you look. Is that a bead of sweat on my forehead? A scrap of food between my teeth? Is my smile really that lopsided? How the hell is anyone meant to keep focused with insecurities like these running round their brain?

Then again, if you yourself are a serial non-remover, you won’t be looking at your face in the other person’s sunglasses — you’ll be admiring your own glasses. Which in turn will be showing their glasses, and so on and so on, like those mirrors in clothes store changing rooms that reflect each other into infinity. It’s a perfect metaphor for the narcissism of our age.

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Show comments
  • Kitty MLB

    Ah, just one more word and I shall be gone.
    Nothing wrong with sunglasses, mind you I’ve spent a lot of time
    in darkened rooms with Greeks, Romans, Persians etc..as historians usually do. So daylight can be a shock.
    Also the winter sun is as dangerous as the summer sun when driving..and its nice to hide behind sunglasses sometimes when
    people, cats and all those who adore you wish for your company
    and you wish to be alone.

  • Curtly

    The England cricket team should stop wearing them ,they might catch more in the slips.

    • somebodystolemynamefatboy

      Stage lights can be blinding, mate.

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  • trace9

    ’74 – Heatwave. ’75 – Bigger Heatwave. The music was sunnier too.

    • Blindsideflanker

      I will always associate the heatwave of the 70’s with 10cc I am loving you, Send in the clowns ( the lyrics of which I felt should have been ‘send in the clouds’) by Judy Collins, and Minnie Riperton’s Loving you.

  • Shenandoah

    Oh how lucky you are. I am an English rosette living in the American subtropics and sunglasses are more needful than a pair of knickers and a glass of Cava. Combined. I went for a walk once recently without them — the new pair was irritating the skin of my nose; it was so bright that I spent half the walk winking, blinking, and shutting my eyes.

    That said, when I speak to someone I usually remove my glasses. If it’s a greeting to a passing stranger, I don’t. If it’s an actual conversation, I do.

  • andylowings

    I approached my boss one time ….his desk and sunglasses were the symbols. So I just reached inside my pocket and put on my own sunglasses.

    We sat there, in mutual, idiotic, dark isolation, to talk to each other.

    • Shenandoah

      Hilarious. But don’t you mean ‘shared’ rather than ‘mutual’?

      • andylowings

        Dunno Shen`. I`m a muddy boots builder so semantics aint me strong point.

        • Shenandoah

          Sounds wonderful and I bet you have the muscles to match.

          • andylowings

            Aye, your Ladyship. Back white and fine, the small buttocks beautiful with an exquisite, delicate manliness, the back of the neck ruddy and delicate yet strong.

          • Shenandoah

            I’d say you were a stallion except that then your rump would be glistening and massive ; )

          • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

            get a room!

          • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxZsdWIuQRs Shenandoah

            heh heh!

      • atalanta

        Collins: “The use of mutual to mean common to or shared by two or more parties was formerly considered incorrect, but is now acceptable.”

        • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCRae5mRoRE Shenandoah

          Nah: it’s incorrect. Cheers.

  • Blindsideflanker

    People wearing sunglasses when it is not required are prats, People wearing base ball caps are also prats. Which makes Formula One drivers prats twice over as they wear ridiculous sunglasses that are so big they could almost be classified as a face plates, and base ball caps that have become over sized billboards.

  • freddyf

    Why would you take off your sunglasses just because you’re talking to someone? Maybe they can see you, but you can’t see them if the sun is blinding you, and when you’re older you won’t see anything through your cataracts.

    • ncgh

      If I remove my sunglasses, I need to replace them with clear glasses, else I will be staring in a myopic stupor.

      But for extended conversations (indoors) I will remove them. Outdoors, my eyes fatigue very quickly and sometimes this brings on a migraine session.

      In general (outside) I’ll remove them briefly to make eye contact, then replace them.

  • YondCassius

    I like this article a lot, especially the well-aimed bits of personal snark — thanks MM.

  • disqus_JXTaH3N9kU

    “They might as well go the whole hog and have the left lens covered with the word ‘ker’, the right with ‘ching’.”

    Or the right with “wan”.

  • Jonathan Tedd

    Guys seldom make passes to broads in sunglasses. (apologies to Miss Parker)

  • Arthur Thistlewood

    Sunglasses – yes, they can be alienating and certainly inhibit open communication between individuals. But what then can we say about the many forms of Moslem female dress which, in terms of obscurantism, knock sunglasses into the shade, so to speak?

  • juanr1214

    Reading this article and the comments, I am so glad my forefathers declared their independence in ’76.

    • Freedom

      So are we. Did you dance to ‘Turn The Beat Around’ or ‘That’s The Way I Like It’?

      • juanr1214

        : )

    • jim bowen

      How witty.Im also glad because my grandchildren will declare my /our independence next month.

  • Pier66

    I remember the lovely time when I was young I was wearing sunglasses at the disco
    cause the lights….
    nothing wrong with the sunglasses at all
    SG eg is better then ever with the sunglasses
    YNWA

  • Neil Ashley

    Bono wears tinted specs because he has glaucoma.

    • Seamus Cameron

      And all this time I thought it was because he was an international douchebag.

      • rugby god

        true story, he’s suffers from both!

      • Black Republican

        Lol !!!

  • Elle’s Island

    Although inseparable from liberty, the self-reliance and responsibility required to prosper in a free country can be sources of discontent.

  • Ilya Grushevskiy

    I don’t understand sunglasses because one simple question: do we wear ear plugs when we head to a concert or a festival?!

    • WSherlockScottHolmes

      I do: cuts out the frequencies which damage teh hearing: still hear the concert.

      I’d add that sunglasses are essential in Australia – the author’s point of British weather is noted and not disagreed with.

      • Ilya Grushevskiy

        Heh, you’re excused then! :p

        I go for full on sensory overload, Australia or not.. good or bad, I like the Clint Eastwood look 😀 .. (not that I look like him!)

  • ricecake202

    “Is it ever acceptable to wear sunglasses indoors?”

    Why not? One can do the same in response.

    If Google Glasses become like the iPhone people must put on whenever wherever they go, hell One’ll wear a mask, or Burk even one has nothing to do with muslim if one doesn’t want others taking pictures of one’s body part and put them on some websites.

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