Monday, May 16, 2011

Vanity's Final Frontier

"Sunglasses are like eyeshadow. They make everything look younger and prettier." 
                      - Karl Lagerfeld, designer

First, the memory turns dicey and unreliable, then the biceps dwindle and the legs go spindly, that sixteen-and-a-half neck looks more like a wrung duck, the waist travels south for the Long Winter before it finally disappears, the clear eye clouds, the voice becomes a quaver. When age brings lassitude and the gristle is gone, where is a geezer's last vanity? 

Fast cars? There is no sadder thing than an old man in a new Porsche. Motorcycles? You'll kill yourself out there, old fella. A precision set of circus throwing knives? You can't throw, and if you could throw you can't see where you're throwing. (Same goes for guns.) Silk neckties? Why shop early for your own funeral? 

No, the answer is eyeglasses. You need them, you wear them, and they're still cool. Remember those tortoise shell jobs Gregory Peck wore in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

Someone has started making them again with the approval of the late actor's estate and at the suggestion of his son, Anthony, who owns the iconic originals from the movie. The "Gregory Peck" will cost you $315, the new price of cool.

Eyeglasses are iconic - most of us very likely wouldn't recognize a portrait of Buddy Holly unless he was wearing those signature plastic frames:

Gandhi is recognizeable with or without his specs, if only because we tend to remember people more vividly when they're typically naked. I don't foresee these wire rims making a big comeback unless we warp back to the 70s, but where fashion is concerned I've been wrong before.

Heinrich Himmler was the eyewear trendsetter back in the palmy days of the Reich. Given that trademark blandness of feature set off by flesh-toned plastic, "Wehrmacht Wierd" won't be making a comeback any time soon either.

I have a pair of sunglasses nearly identical to these of Malcolm X. They were also favored by the less revolutionary 1950s suburbanite. I find them intellectual looking, more "liberal arts" than "engineering" intellectual.

This stylish chap is Gustav-Adolph Schur, a German cyclist from the 1950s. The frames are amber plastic. I could fancy a pair of them meself, eh Gromit?

Woody Allen's "New York Nebbish" look is familiar to any culturally adept American, or any average European.

The "Viennese Virtuoso" - Sigmund Freud - is never out of fashion . . . 

 . . . as this fellow at the Cannes Film Festival attests.

My own quotidian eyewear is a smacking red pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers, as in this portrait of me somewhere in the Hindu Kush (I also have a tortoise shell pair as sunglasses).

The one problem with Ray-Bans is that you can never tell what they'll turn up on:

Here's the look I try to avoid - brings back the chilling memory of my own Himmler-esque pinkish-plastic frames, circa seven years of age, the kind that always ended up with tape securing the bridge.

The smoked lenses of Dr. Strangelove are never quite out of favor. They lend an air of sinister charm and dubious raffishness to an otherwise featureless countenance. I think maybe with a nice white linen suit and a few pounds they could make anyone look like a Sidney Greenstreet character.

And of course, many eyeglass fashions are occupationally specific, as in the fraternity of professional bodyguards . . .

. . . or "lawr enfawcement orfficahs."

Your choice in eyeglasses can say it all . . .

. . . or carry off with aplomb much of your personal fashion statement.

But inevitably comes a time, sooner or later, to every man and woman, when nothing helps - not even a pair of knock-off aviators.

1 comment:

  1. LOL. But you failed to mention Oliver Peoples.
    I think that's what the guy at Cannes is wearing...