Made in the Shades: Hot Sunglasses for Summer 2012

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The ability to accessorize gives humankind dominion over the beasts, and distinguished anthropologists measure human evolution by advances in sophisticated sunglasses styles. This year, designers have established new benchmarks for sunshiny chic, reaching across five decades to update all-time favorites. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you easily will complete your look with timely cat-eyes, sensational circulars, or uber-traditional Wayfarers.

Retro rocks the runways, then hits the streets.

Day in and day out, Ralph Lauren and the magicians at J. Crew prove tradition trumps trend every time. Designers learn they cannot improve upon the classics, but they can update and adapt them with new colors, materials and shapes. Taking their basic blueprints from three traditional favorites, designers this year reprise cat-eyes from the fifties, circulars from the late sixties and early seventies, and Wayfarers from…well, forever. These three hall of fame designs flatter all facial shapes, and new fashion colors complement all complexions, hair styles and hair colors. Last fall, every Fashion Week ensemble included a version of classic sunglasses. Now, as lifeguards from the Jersey Shore to Avenue I in Redondo Beach paint their towers and check their buoys, last fall’s trends become today’s must-haves.

“Future so bright ya gotta wear shades.”

Real-world girls have affirmed the official coolness of the “cat-eye” sunglasses that starred in last fall’s New York Fashion Week. Stella McCartney, Betsy Johnson, and Vera Wang have reshaped and colored great cat-eye looks so well we forget the look dates back to the fifties and sixties, when Marilyn and Jackie taught us just how to rock them. Cat eyes complement all facial shapes, and this summer’s pastel palette lights-up all complexions and hair colors. Keep in mind, though, genuinely classic black and tortoise frames still make powerful statements. Because cat-eyes have become such run-away hits, you can find styles and colors you like at prices from $20 to $2000. Check Glamour for some of the best ways to accessorize your shades with equally cool and put-together outfits.

“They come in two classes…”

“Ya got yer rhinestone shades,” and once again, bringing a blast from the past, you have your retro-favorite circular styles. Think Kate Hudson in Almost Famous. Not oval or elliptical. Round. As in perfectly circular. Your mom rocked the wire-frame versions of these classics during “The Summer of Love.” You can reprise mom’s old favorites, or you can update your shapely spherical style for the new millennium, choosing among myriad materials and colors. Look first at remarkable renderings from Louis Vitton and Zac Posen; then, scan recent photos of Lady Gaga and Beyonce, who have embraced the circular style for all occasions. Especially if you have a square face or angled jawline, you want these sunglasses to soften and flatter your natural assets.

“She got ‘er hair pulled back and ‘er Wayfarers on.”

Everybody’s all-time favorite Ray Bans–those heavy-duty, high-style classics that have become eponymous for their distinctive design—never really went out of style. In 2012, though, Wayfarers have become more popular than ever. Bad bois from James Dean to Charlie Sheen have accessorized their tough-guy looks with traditional black Wayfarers, and Wall Street warriors choose their heavy frames and dark lenses in schoolboy tortoise. In the age of girl power, fiercely fashion forward urban goddesses and beachfront empresses choose their Wayfarers in cool shades of blue, yellow, and red. Of course, iconic eyewear retails at iconic prices, but Wayfarers represent a buy-and-hold investment. They’ve been rockin’ for more than 50 years.

“What really knocked me out was those cheap sunglasses.”

If you have perfected your West Coast strut, then you can pull-off the low-end imitations of designer looks, collecting enough different colors and styles that you can match all your funkified Levis or rise to any occasion. Nationwide mall chains, of course, offer decent selections at adequate prices, but masters in the art of acquisition recommend you begin your search at amazon.com, zappos.com and sunglasshut.com.

In all this fashion frenzy, common sense and health-consciousness still hold sway. You can fit every style from every major designer and manufacturer with prescription lenses. Most styles even will accommodate bifocals or “transition” lenses. Your eye-care plan will not cover the full cost of your high-end choices, but it will cut your expenses by approximately 40 percent. Now, you have living proof that traditional styles naturally complement traditional values.

Author Sara Roberts is a mother of two and has a background in health and technical writing. She is a content contributor for Just Eyewear, a retailer of eye glasses and sunglasses.

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