Magazine article The Spectator

Against Sunglasses

Magazine article The Spectator

Against Sunglasses

Article excerpt

People who wear sunglasses all the time seem to radiate disdain

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.

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. …

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