Making a Spectacle

For status or sport, these shades are top-notch


It's been said that you can tell a lot about a man's character by looking at his shoes. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think your Tod's driving moccasins say much about the quality of your soul. But consider this: if the eyes are the window to aforementioned soul, then maybe what you choose to shade them with is the greatest personal statement you can make with a simple accessory.

 Once only a practical necessity and fashion afterthought, sunglasses have become the ultimate symbol of status - some celebrities and high-profile jetsetters require separate suitcases just to tote their shades around the globe. And it's not surprising that stars and civilians alike are dishing out big bucks for great shades when you consider the cinematic iconography of cool: Tom Cruise in his skivvies and Ray-Bans in "Risky Business;" Ah-nold's sharp-shooting Sama shades in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines;" and Jack Nicholson smirking behind devilishly dark Oliver Peoples lenses.

The right pair of sunglasses can make a lasting impression, and now there's a style to suit every mood and occasion - whether you're saving the world or watching it pass by from an aft deck lounge chair. And if money is no object, the elite of outdoor eyewear now comes with serious options.

 Hi-Tech Must-Have
Oakley has recently launched Thump, the ultimate MacDaddy of cutting-edge cool, with flip-up lenses, maximum peripheral view, and Oakley's patented XYZ Optics for clarity. Not impressed? You'll sing a different tune when you crank up the volume on the internally integrated MP3 player hidden neatly inside the lightweight frame equipped with customengineered miniature Mylar speakers mounted on a pivot for easy adjustment. For about $400-$500 (prices vary according to memory) wearers can download their favorite music right into their sunglasses and rock out for up to six hours on a fully charged battery.

 Sleek Silhouettes
Awarded the NASA Certified Space Technology seal in 1999, Silhouette's Titan Minimal Art frames have long been a favorite among astronauts and Hollywood's elite (Tom Cruise wears model 8562). With an impressive low weight of only 1.8 grams, aerodynamic lines, and beta titanium temples sans hinges for smooth facial contouring, these babies are the cream of the crop in intelligent sunwear. For the company's 40th anniversary, Silhouette launched a special edition line of the spacey shades including five models with a metallic coated lens for ultimate cool.

 Starck Simplicity
Who better than design guru Philippe Starck to create the sleekest line of spectacles on the market, Starck Eyes. In a partnership with eyewear mastermind Alain Mikli, Starck sketched a minimalistic line of biomechanically correct frames inspired by the freedom of movement in the human arm. In other words, the screwless temples adapt perfectly to any face shape or size. "The frames challenge the widespread tendency to hide behind your eyewear," Starck says, while still providing maximum sun protection. Though Starck claims the design is governed by "non-fashion," the drilled rimless styles have a sporty simplicity that is definitely chic.

Peoples' Choice
Oliver Peoples is the optimal choice for sun lovers who don't want to see the world through squinty eyes. The Xtreme Optical Performance line boasts some of the most advanced products in terms of polarized lens technology. A hydrophobic X coating unique to Oliver Peoples repels water, oil, fingerprints and dust, while polarized photochromic mineral lenses with an antireflective coating negate the effects of glare. Celebrities like Brad Pitt, Vin Diesel, and Jerry Bruckheimer gladly pay the cool $385 for top-of-the-line styles like Nitro, Aero, and Rossi.

Sama Like It Hot
Billy Zane, Brad Pitt, Rod Stewart, and John Singleton all have a pair. Arnold Schwarzenegger donned a pair (custom-crafted for "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines") for the cover of Aficionado; People, Us Weekly, and GQ rave about them. It seems that Sama Eyewear is the most popular line of Italian eyewear that no one knows by name. With laser-guided titanium etching, Prolite lenses, and custom lamination, these shades are fit for a king - or the governor of California.

More Stories By Chloe Harris

Chloe Harris is an associate editor at San Francisco's 7x7 Magazine and California Home & Design Magazine. A Texas native, her work has been featured in PaperCity, D Magazine, and Dallas Wedding Book. She is currently working on her first book, a collection of short stories.

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