The Bell Tolls for Tiny Sunglasses

The Bell Tolls for Tiny Sunglasses

For centuries, we could not escape tiny sunglasses. They were everywhere, barely covering the pupils of countless models and influencers and Kardashians. Remember when Kanye West sent Kim Kardashian an email telling her to start wearing tiny sunglasses? "[Kanye] sent me a whole email like, 'You cannot wear big glasses anymore. It's all about tiny little glasses,'" she relayed to sister Kourtney and best friend Jonathan Cheban (aka Foodgōd, aka Foodgod) on a 2018 episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The Matrix has had such a stronghold on fashion for so very long.

Last year, PAPER's Mickey Boardman went in on the tiny sunglasses trend in a video series called Nowstalgia. "America," he said dramatically, "we are in the middle of a huge controversy when it comes to accessories. The tiny little round sunglasses vs. the big giant sunglasses."

Boardman went on to elaborate on the history of tiny sunglasses; their initial popularization via hippies like John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the '60s, and how they came back in the '70s, the Matrix era in the late-'90s, and again via models like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid.

"The other side, of course, is the Jackie Onassis approach," he continued, "which is a humongous pair of sunglasses that make you look glamorous and fabulous, as far as I'm concerned."

When tiny sunglasses first emerged as a trend, they were mocked on social media, easy meme fodder. But the trend was also refreshing — a much-needed switch up. Fashion is cyclical, after all.


The glasses were also just a bit cruel. Sunglasses are traditionally flattering — an easy way to boost one's look. Everyone looks better in sunglasses — you don't even really look like that much of an asshole if you wear them at night. But tiny sunglasses are not easy to wear; they are harder to fit, require a higher performance from one's cheekbones. I will never forget standing at Opening Ceremony next to a sobbing NYU sophomore who was trying on nearly the entire case of sunnies. And they're played out now, aren't they? Too many TikTok teens make videos mocking Brandy Melville employees while clad in sunglasses that barely clear their eyelashes.

And so it's nice to see that according to Milan Fashion Week, Boardman's camp has won. Multiple Spring 2020 collections in Milan have featured ginormous Jackie O glasses, glasses that scream out for a trench coat and a silk scarf (and the presence of an unfaithful husband). Today's Fendi show — Silvia Venturini Fendi's ready-to-wear debut — was inspired by the 1968 Bette Davis film The Anniversary and the 1969 slapstick comedy Carry on Camping. If you weren't a hippie, the '60s were prime time for big, glamorous glasses, and Fendi's models were dressed accordingly, in giant square sunglasses with grandma chains. Even a newly-blonde Kendall wore a big tortoiseshell pair.

At Max Mara, the glasses were enormous, rounder versions of aviators. Alberta Ferretti, which is sort of the most anti-tiny sunglasses brand imaginable, showed round styles the size of tea saucers. Prada showed multicolored square frames that extended from the bottoms of models' noses to the tops of their eyebrows.

There is something so right about seeing big sunglasses in Italy. Very Sophia Loren, very Monica Vitti. Maybe we're over The Matrix, and it's time to pivot to Fellini films (though the Fellini, as a style of sunglasses, is fairly small). Everything old is new again.

Photos via Imaxtree