You probably know this, but several years ago I developed an obsession with sunglasses. It began with cheapo Primark ones that I liked and at £2 a pop, didn't hurt my bank balance. One in every colour? Sure. I bought loads. I liked that it was another aspect of my outfit that I could chop and change to whatever I fancied that day, like jewellery or a handbag. Then, I don't know what triggered it, but I started seeking out unusual shapes or colours or frames with fancy bits on them and thus delved into the world of luxury eyewear. I bought the stunning loopy legged 'Minimal Baroque' from Prada, sleek and fierce cat-eye 'Nikita' by Tom Ford and a couple of deliciously quirky takes on 'cat eyes' from Irregular Choice (well one was a birthday present). Last year I eventually tracked down the gingham D&G frames that I'd unwillingly left behind in TKMaxx years previous. I even found the limited edition red Dior Miss Cherie pair that again, I'd missed out on elsewhere.
Now that I've gone high end, there's no turning back for me. I'd love to tell you that there's little difference between the two, but honestly you can feel the superiority of the designer frames. Not convinced? Read on for why I believe it's worth paying more.
Better for your eyes
I squint in bright light in my Primark pairs all the time. I'm not intentionally slating Primark alone, it's just that's where 95% of my cheap pairs are from, so that's my experience. Yeah they come with that little sticker saying UV protected and all that, but the materials and machinery used and general quality of lens is bound to be inferior when they retail for £1+. In cheap clothes that may translate to loose threads, unfinished hems or buttons falling off, so can you really trust that the lenses made for a few pence do what they claim? The average person can't scientifically prove the effectiveness of a lens, so it comes down to what you feel and for me, there's no denying that they let a lot of light in. It was one of the first positives I noticed when I bought that Prada pair-I don't think I'd even realised it was an issue until then. The shape and style of those meant no sunlight breaking through the lens or creeping in through the sides (an important thing to consider). Not only is this better for my eyes, it reduces premature skin ageing (UVA) in the delicate eye area and wrinkles caused by screwing up my eyes! Your sunglasses should be at least 99% effective against both UVA (the ageing aspect) and UVB (burning) rays. Having poor eyesight my whole life, I know the importance of protecting my peepers and there simply shouldn't be any strain on them. Another thing to note here, the tint of the lens is not indicative of how effectively the sun will be blocked.
They always fit
This is why I love sunglasses in general (no matter their price). I've never found a pair of sunglasses or glasses even that didn't fit. Weight fluctuations affect clothes and even shoe or jewellery sizing, but sunglasses? It's doubtful your head will shrink or expand that much! This means when you find a pair, you'll have them all your life. So see it as an investment and I'm talking years of wear, not weeks or months. The CPW (cost per wear) on an accessory like this (even with our crappy day/sunlight in Scotland) is bound to be extremely low!
They don't date
I just said if you found a pair you like, you could have them all your life and if you look after them, it's true (they don't 'wear' as shoes or constant washing of clothes would). Most people buy frames to suit their colouring or face shape or just because they really love them and this is unlikely to change from season to season or year to year. They are less 'trendy' than clothes or shoes and therefore not going to date as quickly. Plus vintage styles or reproductions are hugely sought after, even now. Just look at the classic aviator, dating back to the 1930's, becoming massive in the 70's, but still going strong today. Cat eye styles from the 50's and 60's (genuine vintage, not reproduction) are still in demand and worn today. To reiterate that CPW scenario, they could last decades never mind years!
They are comfortable and fit better
I guess this one isn't true across the board, it would be an exaggerated generalisation to suggest all inexpensive sunglasses are crap and designer pairs are all kinds of awesome. However you know how cheap shoes have a tendency to pinch or rub because the materials aren't as soft and luxurious as the more expensive pairs and they're just not as well crafted? The same can be said of sunglasses. I mean plastic is plastic, but the manufacturing process and materials used are going to differ when the end product retails for £200 v £2. My cheap pairs do feel a little flimsy and the legs become wobbly easily. Quite often you have to sift through several cheap pairs instore to find ones that sit correctly on your face as many are squint. I've yet to find any of those issues with my designer pairs and honestly I don't even feel like I'm wearing anything when I slip on those Prada sunnies. There's no pinching behind the ears or the nose or anywhere and anything that could potentially thwart the risk of a sore head or migraine gets the thumbs up from me.
It's luxury all round
What I like about cheap sunglasses is that they are great for shoving in the glove-box of the car, your drawer at work or your handbag and if they end up scratched, broken or lost, it's no big deal. It's pretty standard however, that expensive shades come with a cleaning cloth and their own case, unlike cheaper pairs. Actually my Prada sunglasses (and glasses) come in a fancy box with a fancy case inside! Is it really that difficult to put your sunglasses inside it when not in use, thus avoiding breakages and scratches? Perhaps this again comes from wearing glasses my whole life, but it's common sense not to place them somewhere you might sit, face down on a surface or in a handbag with no protection. None of my Primark pairs came with cases and I believe they do sometimes do cases now, but it's more like a flimsy fabric cover which doesn't offer anywhere near the protection of an actual case. Much like a beautiful shoe box, a cool case is part of the fun of buying the sunglasses in the first place. I mean have you seen the ones my Irregular Choice pairs came in? They are so pretty you'll want to use them as a clutch!
So that's my argument for buying quality over quantity and I genuinely do see these as an investment, one that will be repaid with that CPW thing! Sometimes it really helps when you look at a purchase in that way. I haven't mentioned how they make you feel, because I buy things because I like them and don't base that on how much they cost or what brand they're from, as that isn't very important to me. I do love that it's a reasonably affordable luxury though, especially if you're testing the designer water. Cheaper perhaps than designer shoes or handbags, certainly cheaper than clothing and if it's the 'name' thing you are into, then yes, you will feel special every time you slip on those frames with the logo on the leg! All this said, buying luxury doesn't have to break the bank. Brands such as Quay Australia and Le Specs manufacture quality sunglasses for under £50 (full price). Pre owned or auction websites offer thousands of options from low prices. Can you believe I found those D&G on eBay for a fiver? They were unfortunately missing the case (so live in the spare Prada box), but brand new and I'd almost bought them years earlier for around £40 in TKMaxx (which is still a bargain). Speaking of TKMaxx, they have a fantastic array of past season designer frames starting at £14.99. They get in quite a lot of Love Moschino (usually at £24.99) though they do sell quickly, so there's none just now, but it's worth checking regularly as stock is constantly rotating.
If you really feel you can't splurge at full price, then you also have the option to buy in mid season or end of season sales. Like I said above, sunglasses don't easily date, with many styles being classic shapes, so nobody cares if they are from last year, 2008 or 1956! It's worth keeping an eye out (no pun intended) for those styles or brands you like come sale time. Here's my current favourite sale picks from £13 up to just £101 for the bejewelled Miu Miu pair. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that's a fantastic price for embellished frames from a top brand like Miu Miu (sorely tempted with all of these myself).
1. House of Holland lipstick sunglasses 2. Le Specs neo noir sunglasses 3. Le Specs naked eyes tortoiseshell sunglasses 4. Miu Miu glitter rasoir sunglasses 5. Le Specs go go go marble sunglasses 6. Le Specs go go go black sunglasses.
Of course I still have some on my fantasy list that I'd one day like to own. I sold my Tom Ford pair to fund sparkly pink Miu Miu's, which I ordered only to find out they were out of stock and that colour discontinued! The Dior pair were a massive tick off the wishlist as they were commissioned by Sofia Coppola for a commercial, with only 1000 pairs made worldwide. I saw them on a pre-owned site,only for the seller not to get back to me about my offer, then she sold them (for less than I'd offered) to someone else! So I was ecstatic to see them come up on eBay months later. I think I paid around £75 for them (lower than I was willing to pay). I'm keen to add the spotty Flipside from Irregular Choice to my collection and there's a few Dolce & Gabbana, Dior and Prada on my list too. Have I convinced you of the benefit of buying high-end and did you know you could do it so cheaply or are you happy with high-street styles?
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