Fashion

Sixties Style Is Better Than You Think

And the history of sunglasses stopped in 1969.
IMAGE Mondadori Portfolio
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I can clearly remember being a young teenager and telling my dad that the Eighties were completely rubbish. From where I stood (in rural Somerset, wearing a skate belt), the gaudy, bubble gum tackiness of the decade's music, clothing and cinema seemed not only ridiculous, but objectively naff. He nodded politely, but clearly didn’t agree with such a sweeping statement – worried, perhaps, that his boy would never appreciate the quiet power of Phil Collins. I love the Eighties now, of course. All the synthesizers and hair and sunsets and Lamborghinis; it looks and sounds mega.

I long for the Nineties, too. I didn’t before, but ever since I’ve become a proper adult (over 30) I’ve realized that the present-day world is a terrifying hellscape littered with demagogues, Youtubers, and David Guetta. In the Nineties, there was Britpop and Girl Power and house music and football and Michael Jordan and the ’94 Germany kit and Pulp Fiction and Jurassic Park and Wayne’s World and NO SOCIAL MEDIA.

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(Admittedly, I was present for the Nineties, but my pervading memory is of me aged seven, watching Gareth Southgate miss that penalty at Euro ’96, so I can’t exactly claim to have lived the decade, ya know?)

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I’m not alone in this (likely doom-induced) nostalgia, either. The Nineties are hot again, as are the Eighties. And the Seventies are still going strong, last time I looked. (However, we’re yet to see a full resurgence of the Noughties, thankfully. And as per usual, the roaring Twenties have been cruelly overlooked AGAIN as a source of style inspiration, don't you think, old sport?)

I understand the Sixties are au-courant, too. There’s all the tie-dye, and the Nudie suits, and there seems to be a big mushroomy vibe going around, which is fun. One of my lockdown hobbies (which include playing Wonderwall on the guitar and making restaurant-grade pies) has been deep-diving into the litany of Sixties-centric Instagram accounts. The likes of @sixtiesdaily@marrakeshexpress and @thereal60sbazaar, which all offer a slick visual insight into a decade and a culture which is at once vaguely similar and completely alien to our own.

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Sixties style might seem all hippyish and Austin Powers-y, but that’s only in comparison to the developments in style that followed, developments which first began with various vanguardians in the Sixties. The Beatles, for example, began as cheeky, identikit lads in matching suits and matching helmets of dense, north-western hair. But between the first single (Love Me Do in 1962) and the last (Let It Be in 1970) they morphed from the (aesthetic) blueprint of the boyband to a psychedelic quartet of poetry, sex, facial hair, mystery, and subversion. All four of them were cooler and more stylish than anyone I know or have ever met. (I once sat next to Frank Ocean at a fashion show, but we didn’t meet…)

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Photo by Getty Images.

The Sixties seems to be the birthplace of good sunglasses, too. Not that sunglasses didn’t exist before, but they were more the reserve of armed forces, municipal types, and were therefore slick and macho and kind of cool, but perhaps a little square.

But then 60 years, people must have suddenly realized that eyewear can do more for your face than just keep the sun out of its eyes. Look at Miles Davis; look at Miles Davis’s sunnies. Absolutely bonkers and over-the-top, but totally cool, and absolutely in line with the vibe he was going for. The vibe of a jazz genius and generally ethereal dude, I assume.

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Considering all the far-out frames, there were examples of restraint, which leads me rather fortuitously onto the thrust of this whole rambling column. The best sunglasses you can buy, right now and likely for ever more, are a pair in thick black acetate, in the vein of Ray Ban’s Wayfarers. Unfussy, characterful, insouciant, and nonchalant. Exactly the kind of energy you should be trying to emit at all times, if poss. Look at this picture of Michael Caine and tell me he doesn’t look good in those sunglasses. He’s wearing them inside and it still works!

Photo by Mondadori Portfolio.
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You're wondering why no eyewear brands have cottoned on to this hack. Well, they absolutely have. (As one colleague rightly stated, every new sunglasses company proudly bases its aesthetic on that of the late Fifties, Sixties, or Seventies… to which I say, fair enough.) Consider The Reference Library, a new brand just launched on Mr. Porter, whose frames are directly inspired by the best of the mid-century. Frames such as the Eddies, which make my point about chunky black acetate perfectly.

Elsewhere, Jacques Marie Mage do them, as do FlatlistGucciLoeweEyevanSaint LaurentMoscotCubitts… the list is as long as the queue for Woodstock.

Now, as previously discussed, the line between Sixties style icon and cruise ship light entertainer is fine. Essentially, if you're as talented as Miles Davis or John Lennon then you'll be fine whatever you wear, but the rest of us have to keep punching upward and hope that some good garms carry us through. This summer, start with Sixties sunglasses and go from there. The medallion and bowl cut can wait.

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This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Charlie Teasdale
Esquire Deputy Style Editor
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