If you’re looking for a new pair of sunglasses, you might be unsure whether to stick to something classic, or go for something a little more unusual. Unlike glasses, which tend to skew conservative in terms of shape and style, sunglasses are a chance to experiment with different colours, shapes, or styles. “They’re also a great entry point for designer brands,” points out Itunu Oke, acting retail editor at British Vogue, who points out that sunglasses by brands like Gucci and Celine will cost a fraction of the designer’s other accessories (like shoes or bags).
When we quizzed 11 cool men about the best frames they wear themselves, many of their suggestions were in fact unisex or, at the very least, universally flattering on a variety of faces. But we also assembled a panel of eight women, including podcasters, singers, small business owners and, yes, some Strategist staff, too, to see what styles they favoured. We’re confident you’ll find a pair that’s perfect for you — whether you’re looking for something inexpensive, status-y, or sustainably made.
Best overall sunglasses
Since tastes vary wildly when it comes to sunglasses, our first port of call was to take a straw poll among the Strategist U.K. staff. Two writers say they favour this style by Ray-Ban. “I always have a go-to pair of black sunglasses, year in, year out,” admits editorial intern Rachael Griffiths, who favours Ray-Ban. “Admittedly, I’m a serial offender when it comes to buying the trendy sunglasses that each new Summer brings, but I’m not really willing to splash out on something I can’t see myself wearing for more than a season. I will, however, spend a bit more on sunglasses that I know I’ll always return to, like this pair from Ray-Bans. They’re cool and chic, but above all else, timeless. And the fact that they sort of go with everything means they often get picked over the trendier frames anyway.”
Dominique Pariso, a writer at our U.S. sister site, agreed, says that while she would never have thought this style would suit her, “when I popped them on my (very wide) face, they fit perfectly.”
Best less expensive sunglasses
Rosie Percy, senior audience development manager, knows a thing or two about a good bargain (she edits the Strategist U.K.’s deals newsletter). “I get designer sunglasses from sample sales, but then buy ASOS own-brand ones, which always fit my face well. At under £15 I’m not too sore about chucking them in a beach bag, scratching them or losing them.” [Editor’s note: this style is currently sold out, but we found a similar style here].
Best sustainably-made sunglasses
Beth Hendry is founder of Milgi, a company which creates ethical collars and accessories for dogs. She told us about Monokel, a unisex sunglasses company from Stockholm. They use a plant-based acetate to make their frames, which crucially doesn’t contain harmful phthalate-based plasticisers. “They do fresh, contemporary designs that aren’t overpriced,” says Hendry. “What I really like is that each design has multiple colour options, making it easy to shop.” She wears the Neko Cola frames, which “give me an instant boost when I’m not feeling myself.”
Another sustainable, unisex option is Monc, which came recommended by stylist Sam Carder. The company, through their supplier Mazzucchelli 1849, have pledged to make all their frames with bio-acetate, a biodegradable version of acetate that replaces plasticisers with organic additives. They were also mentioned by style writer Jordan Bunker, who said “the brand is keen to make sunglasses in the most responsible way possible, which I can fully get behind.”
Guilty Feminist podcaster Deborah Frances-White, who along with Femi Oluwole and Juliet Stevenson is leading the #NoisyandAnnoying campaign, told us she was a big fan of Gemma Styles’s collection for Baxter & Bonny. They make their frames in a factory which gets 80 percent of its electricity from solar panels, and creates small batches in order to reduce waste. They have also chosen shipping materials that are recyclable and are able to break down.
“I’m mad for the range, they’re so light you can’t feel you’re wearing them, and the shapes are strong and classic — even the smaller ones suit my face beautifully,” says Frances-White. She typically opts for oversized sunglasses (“my face is so round I normally need oversized, ‘Dame Edna’ numbers,” she notes) but she also likes the softer-edged “Take It Easy” frames.
Best square sunglasses
Oke told us that her Celine sunglasses were her absolute favourite pair. “They are the ultimate fashion-girl sunnies. If you see me in sunnies this summer, I’m more than likely wearing my Celines.” They are made from tortoiseshell acetate and feature a green tint on the lenses, as well as the signature gold Celine branding on the arms.
Best (less expensive) square sunglasses
Ruby Aryiku, co-founder of Vamp, a digital agency specialising in developing Black British artists, told us she is a big fan of QUAY, an Australian sunglasses brand that started out on the festival circuit. Aryiku particularly likes their square shaped frames. “These frames are a gorgeous light brown shade, which I think compliments my skin tone, and is perfectly on trend with this season’s love of browns and nudes. They’re retro inspired, and of course, are slightly oversized — I’m a huge fan of oversized sunglasses as they suit me the best and go with anything. When I wear these to pitch meetings with my business partners, Christina and Rumbi, I instantly feel more confident.”
Strategist U.K. editor Ailbhe Malone said & Other Stories was her to-go for affordable sunglasses (in fact, she often found dupes for Persol, Gucci, and Linda Farrow frames there). “For the past five years, I have been staunchly loyal to sunglasses from Other Stories. In fact, I like them so much I bought a pink pair to wear on my wedding day,” she says. “Other Stories glasses tend to be around £20 (a price that means it’s not a pain to mislay them, but expensive enough that one isn’t careless).” She is yet to buy a pair this year, but has her eyes on these squared frames.
Best rectangular sunglasses
Several sources mentioned the of-the-moment rectangular (or ‘squashed’) style of sunglasses. “I’m currently obsessed with this shape,” admits Oke. Not only that, but she says she has a soft spot for white sunglasses, too. “White sunglasses are a must for summer — I particularly love these from Gucci,” she says. The wide arms featured chevron quilting, a nod to Gucci’s bags.
Best (less expensive) rectangular sunglasses
Singer-songwriter Beka (real name Rebeka Prance) told us Bonnie Clyde made her “all-time favourite sunglasses” — specifically, an iridescent pair from a collaboration between the brand and 8ON8, the fashion brand founded by Central Saint Martins’ graduate Li Gong. “This brand is a winner at helping wearers channel their inner eccentric and fabulous feels. I’m a fangirl for life. These glasses are playful but chic, and I find them easy to pair; I own a lilac pair that brings a strong yet subtle pop when paired with other colours in my wardrobe.”
Further snooping led us to see them being worn by cool people like DJ Micah Mahiney and public-relations powerhouse Gia Kuan (formerly of Comme Des Garçons and Dover Street Market).
Best rimless sunglasses
Aryiku says one of her influencer clients told her about Shades of Royal, a Black-owned sunglasses business founded in 2015. “All their glasses are hand made and have gorgeous colour varieties. I liked this pair because they have a subtle brown gradient lens and are ‘rimless’ — pushing me out of my comfort zone.”
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