Earlier this week, Mindy Kaling dispatched a tweet that sent the internet into a flurry:
I think we will regret this tiny sunglasses look
— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) May 14, 2018
As a long-standing proponent of tiny sunglasses, I felt both personally attacked and sheepishly bemused. I love teeny tiny sunglasses, but I also know how impractical they are. I also know that they make me look like a cyborg, but isn’t that part of the fun? When I brought up the topic in the office, it was met with mixed (but passionate) reactions. Clearly, Mindy had hit a nerve: tiny sunglasses, big controversy.
In light (lol) of summer and its impending deluge of sun beams, Man Repeller’s editorial team decided to sit down and get serious about the world’s smallest elephant in the room. Read our conversation about the tiny sunglasses phenomenon below, and join us in the comments for further heated discussion.
Nora: Are we ready 2 fight about tiny sunglasses? I’ll go first. Every time I see them, I am reminded of Ben Franklin.
Haley: Like this?
Amelia: I have this framed next to my bed.
Haley: It’s been somewhat challenging for me to get on board with tiny sunglasses because my family has spent the last decade making fun of my middle school era wherein I wore pleather and tiny sunglasses exclusively.
Harling: What’s fascinating to me is how we witnessed the shrinkage of sunglasses in real time over the past two years. Did it all start with the Le Specs x Adam Selman collaboration???
Haley: I do always associate tiny sunglasses with Adam Selman. I wonder if that’s really where it started though. Maybe it happened alongside the resurgence of dorky 90s normcore.
Amelia: I’m going to trace it back even further. Leandra pointed out earlier when she and I were slacking about this (I’m basically speaking for her right now because she couldn’t join due to a feeding!) that Alessandro Michele started shrinking sunglasses before summer 2016, and then they were further punctuated by Adam Selman and then kind of obliterated but also reinvented by Balenciaga and some of the newer, indie brands that have gained their steam on social media (see: George Keburia).
Harling: True. I guess if Gucci was the original sunglasses shrinker, Adam Selman x Le Specs made the trend to the masses because their shades are sold at an affordable price point, which is ultimately what made the silhouette blow up (I think).
Amelia: But Harling, you actually wear them.
Harling: I love them.
Amelia: Do you love them for their look or their utility? I just can’t handle sunglasses that don’t shade sun from your eyes. What’s the P O I N T?
Nora: And how is your eye health?
Harling: I love them because they are a small thing that can have a big impact on how an outfit looks. An otherwise mundane outfit is infinitely more fun with the addition of tiny sunglasses. I find this is true when I’m styling for shoots, too.
Amelia: When I was talking to Leandra about “the point” of tiny sunglasses, her answer was in line with yours, Harling. She said she doesn’t typically concern herself with functionality or utility when it comes to fashion, accessories, trends, etc. Her approach has almost always been about feeling (and therefore looking) great/cool first and foremost, and therefore she takes very little issue with the irrefutable argument that tiny sunglasses do not protect your eyes from the sun. She also mentioned she can’t keep sunglasses on her face for longer than five minutes anyway because she is always looking down at her phone, which she believes is the larger and more systemic problem in her case.
Personally, I don’t know why they make me mad. I am normally alllll for frivolity in fashion.
Haley: I think their enduring big impact has to do with how few people really wear them yet. Even if we see them everywhere on IG, it’s still relatively rare to see them in person because of how hard they are to “pull off.” So they have cache in that way. It’s very typical of the fashion set (currency = being first/different!) to embrace something so hard to wear.
Amelia: That’s true. We think they’re everywhere but they’re really not. If I saw someone wearing a pair in the wild I’d feel like I caught a Pokémon. Imani wears them regularly and makes them make sense. Or, not sense (they do not make sense!), but makes me see their fashion appeal.
Harling: They’re like rainbow sprinkles! They don’t contribute in any practical way to the flavor of the ice cream, but boy oh boy do they look fun.
Amelia: I like how sprinkles taste. About to speak for Leandra again — this is fun, it’s like she did my homework for me: she made the point that tiny sunglasses are a really sparkling example of how a fashion trend and mainstream media can completely manipulate a person’s perception of what “looks good” and what doesn’t. Granted, this is a very very subjective (and loaded) comment tethered to a much longer conversation about what is normal, what is not, and who gets to legislate that. …Then she brought up The Parent Trap and how she used to scoff at the evil step mother’s tiny-ass sunglasses and say, “Ugh, that is a trend I can never get behind,” but lo and behold, she now admits to “running not walking to the altar of poor vision.”
Haley: Good point — “looks good” is super subjective. I’m sure soon enough everyone will “look good” in small sunglasses. But then they won’t feel so fresh, huh?
Amelia: Sunglasses are one of those things that I personally have decided: This is the shape I wear now. I have about three pairs of sunglasses that I plan on replacing over and over for the rest of my life with exact replicas, and I feel no need to stray ever again, regardless of trends. (I think.)
Haley: What are they!
Amelia: I wear them in every edition of Office Apropos: J.Crew Sam in tortoise, Westward Leaning Concorde (they’re aviators) and now my new favorites are these dark red Lowercase ones. Tiny sunglasses actually may be the first time I have ever felt (personally, not throwing this on anyone else) “too old” for a trend. It feels very “Instagram Cool” to me!
Haley: I LOVE your Lowercase ones. They are the perfect in-between.
Harling: I think the other interesting thing about the tiny sunglasses trend is how many celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon because generally (based on my observations) celebs stick to what’s “safe” or flattering.
Haley: I think it’s become one of the quickest ways for a celebrity to seem “with it,” fashion-wise.
Amelia: That’s true. Also, you know what’s funny about this? That celebrities, for the most part, jumped on a bandwagon that already existed. In other words, they didn’t start the trend.
Haley: But do they ever start trends? The closer I get to “the fashion world” (that gets quotes because I feel annoying for saying it), the more I realize celebrities as not as central to it as I previously thought!
Harling: Agree. I don’t think they start trends, but they do commercialize them.
Amelia: Yeah, agree.
Haley: When Kim K started wearing tiny sunglasses, I feel like that was a big turning point with the trend. Because she ALWAYS goes for what’s more traditionally flattering.
Amelia: Well, that was Kanye’s memo.
Haley: Lol true. Maybe what’s hard to swallow about them is they are such a LOOK. To the point of losing their wearability for people who don’t consider themselves fashion risk-takers.
Amelia: Remember when big-ass bug sunglasses came back in like 2001? Those felt like a LOOK too.
Haley: Yes! People thought they were WILD.
Harling: Thank you, Mary-Kate and Ashley.
Haley: But I think those blew up super fast because they acted so much like facial armor. People joked about them being perfect for a hangover. They cover your whole face!
Amelia: See! These teeny fuckers do nothing! OOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! HOT TAKE!!!!!! Small sunglasses and their impracticality = the new high heels (since sneakers are such a thing).
Harling: Another hot take: if Instagram didn’t exist, neither would the tiny sunglasses trend.
Haley: They are a revolt against practicality.
Harling: But they aren’t uncomfortable! They’re a revolt against functionality, which I think is a little different.
Haley: Fair. I actually love them for that reason. I’m not anti I just get sad that I don’t like how I look in them nor feel great in them. So they feel exclusionary and I’m bitter about that.
Amelia: Harling, they are uncomfortable!!! Have you ever had sun pierce your eyeballs? I am like a snow mole. It hurts! And Haley, I think of all the fashion trends, tiny sunglasses (at a price point like the Le Specs one) are some of the least exclusionary fashion we’ve seen. For one thing, they’re not sized, you can find cheap sunglasses in trendy styles all over and the exclusionary feel here really is an I’m-excusing-myself one.
Haley: No I totally agree! I mean that I feel left out because they are hard to pull off!
Amelia: Hahaha. Ugh, they are.
Harling: Pulling off tiny sunglasses is a state of mind. You have to embrace the WEIRD.
Amelia: Sunglasses can alter your literal face, so I think they can make you see yourself in a way you’re not used to/don’t picture yourself, which is off-putting (i.e. “my eyebrows don’t look like that!”).
Haley: That’s a good point. Maybe I just need to get used to them on my face. I guess tiny sunglasses, in that way, are like most trends before their mainstream crest.
Amelia: How long do you think their “sparkle” (to use your word when you wrote about off-the-shoulder tops, Harling) will last? Also Haley I think it’s fine if you don’t get used to them! Isn’t there something liberating about definitively knowing you don’t like something and don’t want to participate? Not for me, thanks, next. It’s so clean!
Harling: I already feel their sparkle starting to fade because they’ve become so ubiquitous, but I don’t know what’s going to replace them. I sort of want a full-blown bug-eye sunglasses comeback to happen though.
Haley: Maybe we’re entering a sunglasses renaissance. A choose-your-own-shape-adventure. That’d be nice. Then we can all go the way of Amelia and settle on a favorite and call it a day/life.
Harling: Maybe! Regardless, I can’t wait for all our future descendants to post photos of us looking like tiny-sunglasses-wearing aliens on their social media platform of choice.
Feature photo by Harling Ross.