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Classic-but-not-boring is one of the more worthwhile constraints to shop for something within: Things that fall into this category are those that stand the test of time, but not at the expense of their personality. Finding sunglasses that check these two boxes often engenders the same challenges as a time-honored fairytale, though: you need to kiss a lot of frogs — in other words, try on a lot of pairs — before finding your prince or princess. Add temporarily distracting trends like tiny micro-sunglasses and Y2K-inspired shades into the mix, and this quest gets even harder.
Even if you’re the most determined frog-kisser, the number of sunglasses options available is vast and overwhelming. That’s why word-of-mouth discovery is so important. Seeing someone in a great pair of classic-but-not-boring sunglasses is like getting a whiff of an amazing perfume. You may not recognize the brand straight away (in fact, you probably won’t!), but you know in your gut that something about it feels right.
Below are three pairs that have achieved this status for me, after copious trial and error.
The Ashbury-Sky Sunglasses From I-SEA, $28
Last month, I was traveling for multiple video shoots with the same director for a project, and by the time we were leaving our third location I finally blurted out the question I’d been dying to ask since we’d first touched down at the airport and walked out into the blazing heat of San Antonio, “Where are your sunglasses from!?” She smiled coyly. I was fully expecting her to tell me they were from Oliver Peoples and cost $600. When instead she shared that they were from a brand called I-SEA, which I’d never heard of, and could be purchased online for 28 bucks. I was practically foaming at the mouth. I bought them in black. They’re the perfect subtle cat-eye.
The Beale Sunglasses From Warby Parker, $95
Warby Parker’s Beale shades remind me of Wayfarer’s iconic Ray-Bans, but without the immediate brand recognition, which is something I prioritize when it comes to sunglasses. I like my sunglasses a little bit nondescript — I think it makes them cooler. It’s really hard to go wrong with this style. I have them in black and tortoiseshell and wear them both constantly.
The Basil Sunglasses From Lowercase, $350
I once re-boarded an Amtrak train that was about to leave the station after getting off at my stop when I realized these sunglasses had fallen out of my bag. I rescued them in the knick of time. My heart was pounding but it was worth it! They’re the sunglasses I’m most afraid of losing, because they’re perfect — and because they’re on the pricey side. Each pair is made in Brooklyn over a 30-step process that takes two weeks to complete, a level of care and attention that is evident in how they look and feel. My favorite details are the unexpected shape of the frames (almost trapezoidal) and the green tint of the lenses. They’re distinctive without being try-hard — a delicate balance to strike.
Each of these shades promises 100 percent UV protection, and they are shaped in such a way that allows them to make good on that. Sure, sunglasses are capable of adding a fun aesthetic sprinkling to whatever outfit you’re concocting, but ideally — especially if you’re looking to nail the “stands the test of time” part of the equation — they’re also carrying out their intended function, which is shielding your eyes from the sun. Something to keep in mind as you continue your pursuit of the Ones.