Choosing the best beach sunglasses for you is as much about reflecting your personal style as it is about understanding your face shape. To this day, the scene of Audrey Hepburn peering through wayfarers into the window of Tiffany’s New York remains one of the most iconic images of sunglasses style.
Over the past few years in particular, designers have been turning to iconic shapes like the Aviator or cat-eye style. Taking inspiration from the likes of James Dean or Brigitte Bardot, the focus now is on vintage-inspired frames with a contemporary touch. So when picking beach sunglasses, this sense of timelessness will make for a versatile investment that’s as effortless with a Breton stripe and blue denim as it is with a printed sundress. We hone in on some key contemporary takes on retro shades to suit your style and face shape best.
Marilyn Monroe peers out beneath dramatic cat-eye glasses and impeccably coiffed hair — we all know the image, and the glasses that leave a lasting impression. First popularised in the 50s and 60s, today these feline shades complement the vintage-inspired swimwear of Lisa Marie Fernandez or Mara Hoffman. Particularly striking on women with round or oval face shapes, this style provides sharp contrast and definition. Think Elle Fanning rather than Dame Edna Everage.
It’s possible for men to wear a hint of the cat-eye silhouette by way of the Ray-Ban Clubmaster style, which was particularly popular in the 1950s and made a cameo by way of Mr. Orange in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film Reservoir Dogs. With their slightly upturned outer top edge, these glasses work really well for oval or heart face shapes. They’ve become the eyewear of choice for actors such as James Dean and James Franco over the years: ideal for those who favour a classic beach aesthetic of blue denim and white T-shirts.
Jackie Kennedy knew the eyes were the windows to the soul and the large round frames she wore always kept a sense of mystery alive. In the glaring Australian summer sunshine, no stylish beach sunglasses are quite so effective in protecting the eyes than these oversized lenses. A fuller framed style, it is best suited to women who have an eye-catching jawline — and the eye-catching style to match. Look to Miu Miu eyewear for a 60s-inspired take on the look, with contemporary polish.
Rounded styles like Kurt Cobain’s Christian Roths or the classic Aviator lens work wonders for men, especially those with chiselled bone structure or an oblong face shape. Jake Gyllenhaal and George Clooney, for example, both look great in a slightly rounded frame, which balances the strength of their jawlines.
The versatile Aviator is also flattering for rounder face shapes, by adding definition and lengthening the face. Saint Laurent sunglasses offers a wide range of rounded eyewear, which can be styled with tailored shorts and a button-up shirt for an urban approach to beachwear.
When choosing the right sunglasses, a sense of wearability beyond the shore is also important. Enter rectangular frames like the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer, or versions with thicker frames like those seen at Céline eyewear. These are some of the most versatile shapes of sunglasses you can find and have thus been favoured by everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Liam Hemsworth and Phoebe Tonkin.
Wayfarers are particularly adaptable for a day on the sand, as they go with almost any outfit. Bolder, oversized styles like those worn by Vogue Australia’s Christine Centenera, though, offer a sharp sense of sophistication. Fortunately both styles are highly flattering for almost all face shapes from round to oblong, which only adds to their universal appeal.
The tapered gaze
Several designers are turning their hands to tapered sunglasses now, recreating traditional biker styles with a new sense of sophisticated polish. This look is less extreme than those preferred at 90s skate parks, but more a streamlined version as worn by the likes of Brigitte Bardot. Carolyn Bessette and husband JFK Jr both opted for this pared-back style when beachside in Connecticut. Today, style icons such as Jeanne Damas wear the look while holidaying in the South of France.
This style is particularly well suited to oval-shaped faces, while a set of high cheekbones never goes astray either. Designers from Retrosuperfuture to Elizabeth and James lend a contemporary touch to these retro lenses with compelling colour palettes. Pink is for those feeling really daring, while a statement-making white frame would do Bardot or Kurt Cobain proud. These styles make for the perfect accompaniment to classic swimwear like a maillot or trunks. Wearing beach sunglasses has never been so much fun.