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6 Shopping Tips If You’re On The Hunt For Vintage Sunglasses

Secure your dream sunnies for the summer.

by Shelby Ying Hyde
Originally Published: 

It’s safe to say that eyewear is one of the unofficial gateway items into luxury fashion. Due to the lower, high-end price point, the accessory is oftentimes a consumer’s first designer purchase. Now with secondhand shopping at an all-time high, retro sunglasses are as accessible as ever, and fashion fans are flocking to throwback and classic silhouettes. Design details aside, there’s a sustainability aspect that makes going the pre-loved route more beneficial than one would expect as well. For those concerned with the process of shopping for vintage sunglasses, with the proper tips and tricks you’re bound to snag a top-tier find every time.

As pointed out by Instagram’s Community Lab, users are all about vintage-inspired shapes right now. “Seen on movie stars, such as Anna Karina and Brigitte Bardot in the ’60s, simple yet statement-worthy sunglasses are making a comeback,” the team explains to NYLON. “Many brands embrace the silhouette and color of vintage sunglasses and recreate them, and vintage fashion enthusiasts are searching for rare pieces for that ‘je ne sais quoi’ to instantly upgrade any outfits.”

However, it’s worth noting that In the “wake” of COVID-19 specifically, there’s been a noticeable change in how most people live their lives, which, as reported by trend forecasting company WGSN, includes the way that buyers approach shopping: “Out of the pandemic is a renewed sense of purpose and accountability that has accelerated a shift in consumer purchasing behavior toward sustainable products and practices. The eyewear industry will need to pivot in order to satisfy expectations.”

Rather than waiting for brands to catch up, buying a pair of sunglasses secondhand is a great way to shop consciously. Truly a win-win.

Whether you are on the hunt for a new signature pair of sunglasses for the summer or are simply hoping to get your hands on something (anything) from a seemingly unattainable luxury brand, there are plenty of reasons why shopping vintage is more beneficial in the long run. Read on for a play-by-play process to secure your dream sunnies.

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Buying Vintage Sunglasses Tip No. 1: Shape Up

While you don’t have to go as far as abiding by the guides out there that suggest eyewear silhouettes according to your face shape, you should absolutely familiarize yourself with all the different options available so that you can get a feel for what will work best for you. However, for those who may feel completely lost, they are a great way to ensure you’re on the right path. As far as vintage designs are concerned, the more common frame styles include cat-eye, square, and tiny round lenses. Being able to properly identify the shape of your vintage find is a great way to pinpoint the year they were made. It also comes in particularly handy for sourcing the origins of those no-name finds.

Buying Vintage Sunglasses Tip No. 2: Try Them On (If You Can)

If you have an opportunity to try on a vintage pair before fully committing, take it. No matter how much you think you’ll like a pair, it’s hard to ever know for sure unless you actually take them for a spin. To guarantee they resonate with your style, you should almost always see them in person. But, in the age of online shopping this isn’t always possible. In the event that you’re unable to try them on before buying, try to find a similar shape at your local boutique or doing a virtual try-on service that some eyewear brands are now offering. While it’s not nearly as good as being able to play around with the exact pair, it’s definitely the next best thing.

Buying Vintage Sunglasses Tip No. 3: Check The Parts

Similar to a car, the older a pair of sunglasses, the more difficult it may be to find the necessary parts needed to wear them. So it’s important to make note of all the teeny, tiny bolts, screws, and hardware pieces on the vintage pair before buying them. You’ll want to be somewhat knowledgeable of what’s needed should they need to be repaired because very few things are worse than having to say goodbye to a good fashion find if it’s no longer useful. On the off chance that a pair does have parts missing, consider sourcing from a place like Amazon and stock up.

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Buying Vintage Sunglasses Tip No. 4: Understand Sizing

Unbeknownst to quite a few shoppers, eyewear actually does have sizing. Though it may vary from brand to brand, the combination of letters and numbers on the inside of the arm of your sunnies is actually a serial code determining its size. This feature, however, is pretty much non-existent in older frames, so to get a better feel for which pair works best, you’ll want to go with the exact measurements as outlined in this comprehensive vintage sizing guide. It allows customers to be able to properly find their perfect fit, time and time again.

Buying Vintage Sunglasses Tip No. 5: Wire Vs. Acetate

Are you more of a metal frame kind of person, or do you prefer chunky resin acetate? You may want to determine which category (if not both) you fall into to ensure you stay on course. If you’re hoping to channel the early aughts and the ’90s, wired frames are the way to go. For customers who want something a bit more substantial, traditional acetate is the ideal choice. Aside from aesthetics, you’ll want something that will align with your lifestyle, so for those who are hard on sunglasses (like myself), something sturdy will do you good.

Buying Vintage Sunglasses Tip No. 6: Household Names Aren’t Essential

Don’t let the brand of your latest vintage pickup dissuade you from adding them to your sunglasses collection. Unlike with handbags or even shoes, the make of a pair of frames matters a lot less than the design itself. As long as the quality is there and the details appear substantial (see above), why get caught up in the mainstream if something just as good, or even better is sitting right in front of you? In other words, while you can’t go wrong with names like Chanel, Versace, or Gucci, focusing too much on the buzzy luxury houses could make you miss out on a really good find. Plus, if we’re being honest, the more obscure unknown label is ultimately part of the appeal.

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