When Liz Hodgkinson’s ex-husband started wearing sunglasses at the age of 79, he became a babe magnet
My ex-husband reckons that for most of his life, he has been pretty much invisible to other people, and that as he has got older, this invisibility has increased.
But, just lately, he has been getting sideways approving looks from passers- by, even at nearly 80. It seems they are wondering whether he is some kind of celebrity, as they often give him a second or even third, glance.
Why? Because when out and about these days, he often wears sunglasses. This is not out of any kind of vanity, but because he has been advised to wear them following a successful cataract operation, to cut out glare and reduce eyestrain. Previously, he needed strong prescription specs, which meant he could not wear sunglasses, apart from nerdy clip-on ones.
Now, for the first time ever, he is turning heads. Even I, who have known him since we were teenagers, am pulled up sharp by his new and uncharacteristically stylish appearance.
He too is astonished at the difference the shades have made, and several women have said to me, ‘I can see what you saw in your ex-
husband. He is such a good- looking man!’
Although sunglasses have a long history, going back around 2,000 years, they were first considered
stylish when worn by military pilots during the Second World War to protect their eyes from UV rays in the sky. They became known as aviator sunglasses and were subsequently
worn by ordinary men who wanted to cut a dash, as they were associated with courage and daring. Sunglasses were given an extra dose of cool when Hollywood star Steve McQueen made Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair. Below: Anna Wintourthem part of his image. He had a huge collection; one pair alone sold for over $70,000 at auction after his death.
Today, celebrities Brad Pitt, Lewis Hamilton and Tom Ford continue the cool sunglasses look, as do younger stars such as Timothée Chalamet. Women find sunglasses on men sexy, as they impart a sense of mystery and intrigue and make a man seem more handsome.
They deliver symmetry to a male face and give it a firmer-jawed look. Sunglasses are intimately connected with glamour and sexiness; the many styles of designer shades now available imply a genial, slightly enigmatic and perhaps ultimately unknowable personality.
They are also connected with wickedness. Two Bond villains, Franz Sanchez in Licence to Kill (1989) and Dominic Greene in Quantum of Solace (2008), were always wearing expensive sunglasses. The film producers knew that the right sunglasses for the character – black Ray-Ban Wayfarers for Sanchez, and Cutler and Gross Brown Stripe for Greene – would instantly convey the required villainous allure.
There is even a scholarly book, Cool Shades by Vanessa Brown, which explores the history and meaning of sunglasses and explains how and why they became an enduring fashion item.
Women have used sunglasses to add a touch of mystique and exoticism. It is unusual to see Vogue editor Anna Wintour without her trademark sunglasses, even indoors and in the dark. Somehow, though, women in sunglasses don’t deliver the extra aura that hangs round a man in shades.
The paradox is that if you want to make yourself appear more captivating and visible, all you have to do is hide behind a pair of sunglasses.