Sunglasses: 90s trend
The nineties style evolved from an eclectic mix of trends and counter-culture fashions that occurred in reaction to the contrived designs of the power-mad eighties. Regardless of whether designs from this era are classified as vintage, there is no doubt that the key events in 1990s fashion and music were influential in shaping the style of spectacles in the years that followed.
Mainstream 1990s fashion saw the rise of the ‘superbrands’ – Gap, Nike, and Burberry among them. Most were marketed with instantly recognizable design features and logos, whether a tick or a check. The 1980s fashion for displaying brand names progressed to become an integral part of 1990s design.
As the world’s leading fashion names licensed their labels, logos and monograms were displayed on frame corners and arms, allowing the consumer to buy into the brand image. Arms became broader than ever before to incorporate these latest decorative details.
In the UK, girl power – a term personified by the rise of all-female pop groups such as the Spice Girls – also made its mark. Together with icons of Brit-pop, the Spice Girls reintroduced the Union Jack as a fashion statement. Although the most significant impact was on a massive following of young girls, feminine individuality became the all-important 1990s hallmark.
Persol was among the brands to lead the way, highlighting its range for women by introducing two exclusive feminine designs. The first, the 830, was created in the early 1990s for Italian actress Ornella Muti.
It was followed, in 1993, by the 853, a frame initially designed in the 1970s. The 853 was subsequently known as the Carol after the American supermodel and actress Carol Alt, to whom it was dedicated.
Superstores, superbrands, supermodels: the nineties celebrated a refined sophistication and an understated cool after the excesses of the eighties, like Calvin Klein, who launched his eyewear line in 1992. He was the first in a quarter of a century to design sunglasses for James Bond, who is seen wearing the ‘2007’ model on the ski slopes in The World is not enough (1999).
The high-tech minimalist styling
The high-tech minimalist styling introduced at the very end of the 1980s by the Italian label Prada continued as the mainstay of eyewear design during the nineties. Spectacles were characterized by frameless and lightweight architectural design and the use of discreet metals or titanium.
The result was a contemporary look that was fresh and discreet. This is epitomized in Giorgio Armani’s Cavour model of 1995 – a design that, ironically, was inspired by the spectacles worn by nineteenth-century Italian statesman Count Cavour, who is celebrated for his role in the unification of Italy.
Spectacles became the on-screen fashion accessory to give a character depth and magnetism; this is in sharp contrast to their use in older films, in which they were the symbol of the academic. As heroin-chic hit the catwalk – a look that demanded pale skin, jutting bones, dark circles, and dark glasses day or night – supermodels lost their healthy glow. Kate Moss, who has always mixed vintage and couture, championed the Wayfarer or large, oversized 1970s styles.
The teashade sunglasses
Another masterpiece, the teashade sunglasses popularized by 1960s and 1970s rock stars, was given a different image in the 1990s. The fact that teashades did not become a 1990s fashion statement perhaps reflects the powerful influence of film over fashion. The style was used to portray psychotic, dangerous characters as well as futuristic styles.
For example, Woody Harrelson’s disturbed character Mickey Knox is depicted in teashades with red lenses in the Natural Born Killers. The character wore a range of sunglasses – teashades among them – contributing to their dynamic futuristic look.
Spectacles formed an essential element of several fashion trends in the 1990s. The stereotypically American preppy or college fashion that had first been popular in the 1950s and continued to thrive in subsequent decades experienced a revival in the early 1990s.
Thick, dark, angular frames were essential in completing the retrospectively named geek chic or nerd look by the mid-decade. When worn with the right hairstyle and a relaxed, effortless dress, deliberately unflattering frames were often surprisingly becoming. In the UK, this trend was typified by Jarvis Cocker, whose trademark heavy frames were held in place with a large elastic band during performances.
The fashion statement extended to consumers with perfect eyesight, a trend that has enjoyed a recent resurgence. As the new millennium approached, it seemed that every possible style of frames had already been designed, with a seemingly infinite variety to choose from. That’s why designers started to look again to the past, once they had explore all manner of angles and lines.
Vintage became a buzzword of the twenty-first century, with brands renewing successful lines of design through technique and material.