Timeless Frames and Sunnies and the Icons Who Made them Famous

Of course, as a Kerrisdale eyewear store, we’re all about helping our customers find glasses and sunglasses that give them amazing vision and a comfortable fit. However, at the Spectacle Shoppe, we also love pointing people in the direction of frames that will look stunning on them. After all, eyewear has tons of fashion potential and when you choose the right pair of glasses or sunnies, they can become a big part of your personal style and give you a boost in confidence. Just think of all of the celebrities, movie characters and public and historical figures whose names instantly bring up thoughts of their eyewear. These trendsetters can be a great place to start when you are looking for inspiration for your own specs. Here is a roundup of some of our favorite timeless frames and classic sunglasses styles and the icons who made them famous:

  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – Jackie O was the First Lady of the United States and, arguably, also the First Lady of style. She was one of the icons who made sunglasses famous for more than just a functional use. She elevated them to become a truly fashionable accessory by putting dramatic, oversized sunnies on the map. When it comes to the most classic sunglasses of all time, her preferred round, “bug-eye,” extra-large eyewear is still worn across the globe and will likely never fall out of favor. Get the look: Versace 4281 and Ray-Ban RB4198
  • Buddy Holly – Texas-born singer and musician Buddy Holly brought “geek chic” to the forefront and the style is still going strong today. His thick, heavy, black, plastic frames were an important part of his image and some pop-culture experts credit him with making the first real eyewear statement in rock and roll history. Interestingly, Holly, who reportedly had 20/800 vision, refused to wear glasses on stage at first. However, after dropping a guitar pick and having to get on his hands and knees and crawl around to find it, he began rocking specs for gigs. He still took them off for photos. That is, until he found those trademark frames. The pair Buddy Holly was wearing when his plane crashed in 1959, were actually found in 1980 and a court battle ensued over which family member would get to keep his famous glasses. Get the look: Persol 3012-V 900
  • Thelma – Thelma, played by Susan Sarandon, in Thelma & Louise, has to make any list of iconic glasses in movies. She paired her cat-eye, tortoise-print sunnies with a scarf around her head for an unforgettable look. Her style in the film was sophisticated and her timeless frames will always have a place in our heart – and on our faces. Get the look: Kate Spade Amara/S
  • John Lennon – Often referred to as “granny-style glasses,” John Lennon’s signature round frames are another of the most iconic glasses in rock history. He made the shape cool again and now they’re among the timeless styles for glasses for people of all ages. The Beatles star even made our “Guess the Famous Eyewear” quiz a while back because you rarely think of John Lennon without also thinking of his quirky specs. Get the look: L.A. Eyewear Brooker or, for a modern update, L.A. Eyeworks Mouse Foot
  • Elton John – Okay, so maybe some of Elton John’s huge, bedazzled sunnies or frames in fantastical shapes aren’t technically what could be called classic men’s sunglass styles since they were super bold, but they are certainly iconic. Elton John’s eyewear has always made a statement and we absolutely love it! Oversized frames complete with embellishments and fabulous color combinations can be found on the runways (and in the Spectacle Shoppe) today and the style seems to cycle back around every few years. Get the look: Versace 4270 or, for a glasses version of Elton John’s style, L.A. Eyeworks Date Shake
  • Tina Fey/Liz Lemon – For years, comedian and writer Tina Fey and her 30 Rock character Liz Lemon wore signature low profile, tortoise print frames. The classic style glasses were so deeply associated with Fey/Lemon that they even have their own entry in Urban Dictionary that reads, “horn rimmed or otherwise very nerdy glasses, typically characterized as something worn by librarians, naughty secretaries, or US Vice Presidential candidates.” We don’t necessarily agree with the “nerdy” part and they truly are timeless frames. Fey eventually updated her style and went for larger, thicker frames but the originals are forever cemented in pop culture. Get the look: Etnia Vintage Fitzroy
  • Holly Golightly – When it comes to iconic glasses in movies, Holly Golightly’s oversized sunglasses in Breakfast at Tiffany’s are up there. When the film was released, they quickly became the most sought after sunnies. It doesn’t hurt that the stylish, elegant Audrey Hepburn played the character. The timeless frames will never go out of style because they’re flattering and suit almost anyone. Get the look: Ray-Ban RB4198 or Ray-Ban RB4187 Chris
  • Hunter S. Thompson – The famous writer and founder of gonzo journalism was well known for his choice of eyewear. He took one of the most classic men’s sunglasses styles, aviators, and eventually put his own spin on them with tinted lenses. Many fans know the look best from watching Johnny Depp recreate it in the movie version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Hunter S. Thompson’s pair of choice was the Kalichrome Shooter Aviators by Ray-Ban. While finding an original pair will set you back quite a bit, the brand still makes similar styles with colorful lenses. Get the look: Ray-Ban RB3025 019/22 and Ray-Ban RB3025 112/17
  • Malcolm X – The human rights activist Malcolm X popularized browline glasses and they later became a staple in movies, television and on celebrity faces. While the browline style took a backseat for a brief period after having a heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, it’s back with a vengeance. The timeless frames can be found for both eyeglasses and sunglasses nowadays. They got their name because the top of the glasses is thicker and frames the lenses just like eyebrows frame the eyes. Get the look: Ray-Ban 5294 2077 or Persol 3033-V3C 6H2 24
  • Maverick (Tom Cruise) in Top Gun – To be fair, aviators are one of the most classic sunglass styles for men and women and have been for a long, long time. They originally gained traction among pilots. Yet, they saw a huge comeback after Tom Cruise wore them while playing Maverick in Top Gun. He’s responsible for possibly the most dramatic celebrity glasses take off moment in a movie. Unlike a lot of frames, aviator sunglasses really flatter every face shape, which is another reason for their staying power. Get the look: Ray-Ban RB3025
  • Lisa Loeb – Singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb had a #1 hit with her song, “Stay (I Missed You)” in the mid-1990s. It was really her only mainstream smash, though she has gone on to do all sorts of amazing things with her career, and anyone who was around in the 90s can remember singing along to the catchy tune. Yet, what most people remember even better than the song, are her cat-eye glasses. The small, yet timeless frames suited her so well and were the perfect blend of retro in the era of grunge. That’s why they continue to stand out as one of the most iconic glasses of that decade. Get the look: Etnia Barcelona Bari
  • Andy Warhol – Andy Warhol alternated between eyeglasses and sunglasses but his most famous glasses are the rounded, crystal, acetate frames that have the slightest bit of a tint. These quintessential Warhol glasses probably served as inspiration for today’s translucent and transparent acetate frames that have been offering up variety after years of thick, black glasses reigning supreme. Get the look: L.A. Eyeworks Mouse Foot (a colorful take on Warhol’s preferred frames)
  • Annie Hall – Diane Keaton as Annie Hall in, well, Annie Hall is another of the icons who made sunglasses famous. When the movie came out, people went crazy for the “Annie Hall” look, which was an oversized, menswear-inspired style. The oversized approach didn’t stop at her clothes and her equally oversized sunnies are now one of the timeless styles for glasses and shades. Her iconic sunglasses featured large, acetate frames with just a hint of a cat-eye shape on the edges. Get the look: Kate Spade Angelique/S or Versace 4281
  • Grace Kelly – The American actress who became Princess of Monaco when she married Prince Rainier III, Grace Kelly, was the picture of elegance and grace. She is one of the most enduring style icons (the famous Hermès “Kelly” bag is named after her). Beyond the pearls, nipped waistlines and red lips, her devotion to tortoiseshell sunglasses and timeless frames was almost unparalleled. She wore her oversized sunnies almost everywhere she went. Get the look: Kate Spade Amara/S or Kate Spade Soleil
  • Bono – Bono is rarely spotted without his dark sunglasses and, for good reason, the U2 frontman suffers from glaucoma, which makes his eyes extremely sensitive. Though Bono has been known to change things up with classic sunglass styles like aviators and round frames, his trademark has become his tinted, rimless, wraparound shades. Get the look: Rudy Project Kylix
  • Johnny Depp – Whether he’s playing a role or walking the red carpet, Johnny Depp is usually wearing glasses. They’ve become part of his look. He’s worn a ton of different glasses and sunglasses throughout his career. However, he always seems to go back to round, timeless frames, often with a keyhole bridge, and many times in tortoiseshell or with tinted lenses. His specs are retro with modern appeal. Get the look: Etnia Vintage Mission District
  • Steve McQueen – The American actor, who was a top box-office hit in the 1960s and 1970s, was nicknamed the “King of Cool” and known for his rebellious nature. We’re pretty sure his signature iconic sunglasses played a role in it. He was a big fan of Persol and wore a pair of Persol 714 sunnies on the set of The Thomas Crown Affair. The fully-rimmed, acetate frames in an aviator shape actually fold in half and the brand re-launched them in honor of the man who made them famous.

How to Wear Classic Frames

This compilation of timeless frames and the icons who made them famous could go on forever. There are a lot of overlapping styles. The real takeaway is that aside from the occasional over-the-top design (think Kanye and Elton John), most stars opt for classic style glasses and sunglasses and add interest with color and pattern. The reason their eyewear becomes so iconic is because it complements their features and looks exceptional on them. If you really want to get the look of these eyewear inspirations, past or present, consider your face shape (this will ensure they’re more comfortable and flattering). Here are a few pointers:

  • If you have an oval face, you can pull off most styles. Look for frames that are wider or at least the same width as the widest part of your face. Upswept cat-eye frames, square and rectangular shapes, as well as oversized styles, will look great on you.
  • People with heart-shaped faces tend to look best in round, oval or wayfarer styles, as it brings the different widths of the face into harmony. If you have a heart-shaped face, rimless glasses and sunglasses are a sure bet too.
  • If your face is square in shape, frames that are wider than your cheekbones create a sense of balance, while round and oval frames can soften your features.
  • Those with round faces, can get the illusion of angles with structured square or rectangular frames. Upswept corners will narrow the face just slightly.

Not everyone’s face falls into one category. The general rule of thumb is to pick frames that are in contrast to the shape of your face. For example, if you have more angular features, rounder frames will bring softness and balance.

While keeping these tips in mind will be helpful, going to a store, like the Spectacle Shoppe, and having an eyewear specialist fit you for frames is the way to go. After working in the industry for so long, I’ve seen every shape and type of face there is and I also know the different brands and styles that work for people. We carry high-quality, gorgeous eyeglasses and sunglasses in Kerrisdale at our shoppe and we’re experts at helping each customer choose the pair that makes them look, feel and see their best. Swing by and find your own timeless frames!

Morgan Nahanee
Morgan Nahanee


Morgan is The Spectacle Shoppe’s Lead Technician and Customer Relations Specialist as well as a Principle of Spectacle Shoppe. She is a licensed contact lens fitter and dispensing optician and has been working for The Spectacle Shoppe since 2006. She graduated from Douglas College’s two year Dispensing Optician and Contact Lens Fitting Program in 2008. From contact lens fitting to eyeglass repairs and adjustments Morgan is eager to help you with any optical needs. Connect with Morgan Nahanee on Google+