If you’re looking for a departure from your typical sunglasses style, it’s time to enter the circle. For the past couple years, round sunglasses have been mounting a full takeover of the style scene. Known to sunglasses connoisseurs as teashades (thanks to their surge of popularity in the early days of marijuana usage), this strikingly simple profile is at once futuristic and nostalgic. And judging by the celebrities who have sported them well before their current fad stats — we’re talking Samuel L. Jackson, Johnny Depp, Elton John, Prince — round sunglasses suggest a nonconformist personality who marches to the beat of a drum that everybody else wishes they could hear.
Just what has made round sunglasses so popular in the last couple years? We have a few theories:
Nostalgia for the way things were
The more alarming our modern world becomes, the more folks want to immerse themselves in the past. Larisa Ginzburg, founder of the “modern nostalgic” sunglasses brand Vint & York, confirms this theory. “Round sunglasses were popular amongst intellectuals in the late 1920’s and 30’s. They came around (no pun intended) a second time in the 60’s & 70’s, made famous by pop icons like John Lennon, Ozzy Osbourne, and many others.”
Granted, past eras like the 1900s and the 60s weren’t objectively better than now, but they do have the virtue of being over and done with. If we could teleport back to those eras now, we’d know exactly how things were going to turn out … and boy, wouldn’t that be nice for our current state of anxiety. Barring time travel, a pair of round sunglasses can give you a momentary hit of that comforting nostalgia, permission to mentally inhabit a time that, compared to today, seems a lot more innocent.
The resurgence of festival culture
Today’s music festivals owe their entire scene to the Summer of Love, which is an obvious cue for festival attendees to dress the part. And since Coachella and its ilk set fashion trends as much as any runway these days, it’s only natural that the ’60s shades sported at these festivals show up in other fashion-forward settings.
The breakneck pace of technology
Over the past few decades, tech innovation has been changing our way of life with thrilling, chilling speed. In response, designers and stylists have drawn upon the aesthetic of past eras when innovation was moving at a similarly breathless pace–specifically the late 1800s and early 1900s. Along with mind-blowing inventions like the airship and the automobile, and the harnessing of electricity, this era also happens to be when sunglasses debuted as a mainstream trend. In generations since, the “genius inventor” look has been replicated under both the steampunk and Afro-futurism trends, popularized most recently through films like Sherlock Holmes, Black Panther, and the upcoming Tesla biopic.
This seminal YA series was the constant companion of today’s reigning generation. Is it any wonder that, in a world that could desperately use some educated wizardry, we’ve turned to our favorite fantasy hero for style inspo?
Western culture’s chronic overconsumption inspires trendsetters to strike back with a less cluttered, less complicated aesthetic. And what could be more minimal than the simple circle? It helps that this minimalist profile looks good on just about everybody. “The thing about round frames is that size has a lot to do with it,” Larisa says. “A square shaped face looks great in round frames, as they add a bit of balance to the width of your face. If your face is long and thin, small round frames may give it a bit more fullness, soften the edges a bit. If the frame is an oversized round frame, it suits an even wider variety of shapes.”
Bottom line, says Larisa, “round sunglasses have been and remain a very distinctive frame, speaking to bygone eras that hold great sentiment to many. They will never go out of style, and we expect to see even more interesting and modern interpretations of the round frame as new technologies and materials become available.”
Ready to take round sunglasses for a spin? Here are a few of our favorite sources for the timeless teashade look:
The Best Round Sunglasses for Men
Mr. Peachy Round Polarized Unisex Sunglasses With Side Shield
Full-tilt steampunk style that’s both solidly constructed and eminently affordable. If you’re tentative about dipping a toe in the teashade look, start here.
Combining the classic round shape with a touch of horn-rimmed distinction, these Ray-Ban frames complement any sartorial style you can throw at them.
Vint and York Juice Joint
Unleash your psychedelic rocker persona with this faithful repro from Vint and York. Neither oversized nor pinpoint, the lenses are perfectly proportioned for a timeless look, and their amber gradient makes the world look like an endless summer.
Silhouette Urban Sun
These rimless round specs offer an undeniable intellectual distinction. If your idea of a fun summer afternoon is sipping limoncello while discussing obscure European philosophy, these are the shades for you.
Northern Lights Optic NL6
Inspired by vintage mountaineering glasses, these frames combine the nostalgic look of pioneering Arctic explorers with futuristic flair. Leather panels on the sides aren’t just for looks—they also block glare from snowy mountainsides, desert dunes, or even concrete jungles.
The slightly softened shape of these sunnies, combined with their slim framing and temples and their sophisticated technical details, makes them an attractive choice.
Garrett Leight Harding
Inspired by midcentury playwright Arthur Miller, this thick-rimmed pair of specs offers a hybrid aviator-teashade look for those who want to pair two iconic styles in one.
Vint and York Charleston
Channel your inner Jay Gatsby with these dapper frames that — surprise — separate to allow for traditional eyeglass wear without the shades. Because versatility is the bee’s knees, old sport.
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