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We're Going to Regret the Tiny Sunglasses Trend

I was listening to the Butthole Surfers’ album Locust Abortion Technician as a teenager when I first heard this advice: "It's better to regret something you have done than to regret something that you haven't done." And although I’ve subsequently lost much of my taste for intentionally stupid noise rock, that wisdom has stuck with me and gone on to inform a truly uncountable number of decisions in my life, from very small to absolutely massive—including the way I dress myself. 

Of course, those words led me to follow my heart on purchases beyond my financial capabilities, but they come to me most often on days where I’m contemplating wearing something that walks the thin line between fearless brilliance and downright hideous. Whenever that feeling comes to me, I imagine a future me distraught over never having known if clashing print might have been a look destined for greatness, or if I could have actually pulled off wearing a suit comprised of shorts and a blazer to a work meeting. My most recent contemplation, taking into account the lyrics of my youth, is the tiny sunglasses trend—yes, the one that all the beautiful people are still displaying well into the fall season. 

If you’re putting away your warm weather clothes, airing out your layer-season wardrobe, and sifting through the past few months of iPhone photos tallying up your win-loss record for the past season, you may have a moment where you pause and ask yourself, “Did that trend report and the celebrity guidance deceive me? Were these micro-frames truly unflattering?"
The answer is almost certainly yes. They probably looked really bad on you. Our brains are hardwired to look for beauty in proportions, which is why we’re innately drawn to the golden ratio. This is especially true in human faces, where according to science we can subconsciously pick up on differences in facial symmetry too minute for us to even see with our conscious minds. We’re also instinctively drawn to faces with eyes that are big compared to the rest of the features, which is why we think babies and anime characters are so cute.
Therefore, tiny sunglasses actually look good on exactly two types of people: professional sunglasses models, and people who don’t model, but look like they could.
Tiny sunglasses are a little prank on our brains. Whenever their beauty-detection centers take in a face in tiny sunglasses and starts measuring the parts against one another things go weird around the eye area. They were hoping to find something big and open and readable there, since we also like to be able to see other peoples’ eyes and all the nonverbal emotional cues contained therein, but instead they run into tiny little dark shapes and suddenly the whole rest of the equation starts to look wrong. Even if your conscious mind appreciates the tinniness and nowness that the sunglasses are giving off, your subconscious mind might be going nuts trying to figure out why everything seems so...funny.

Therefore, tiny sunglasses actually look good on exactly two types of people: professional sunglasses models, and people who don’t model, but look like they could. You need like ultra black diamond world class cheekbones in order to prank our brains this way and still leave them happy in the end with the overall composition. You also need a rigorously composed futurist/Hood By Air wardrobe, or else you run the almost certain risk of looking like a Matrix cosplayer on dry cleaning day.

But so what? Unless you’re some kind of humorless trend-following robot, you probably bought into the tiny sunglasses thing because it looked fun. The way that tiny sunglasses mess with the proportions of your face is more silly than upsetting. Upending our visual expectations right in the part of the face where they’re most important makes for a great sight gag with a solid punchline. The non-sunglasses-models I’ve seen wearing them who’ve actually pulled it off–which, again, is a different thing from looking good–are the ones who seem in on the joke.

What people who roll their eyes over silly fashion trends don’t seem to understand is that a lot of people taking part in them know just how silly they are. That’s part of the fun, knowing that years from now you can look back through your photos from this time with friends and someone will point and say, “Oh, remember those?” Doing dumb things in large groups—whether it’s wearing tiny sunglasses or cramming into telephone booths or any of the millions of other ridiculous fads to have seized the American imagination in the century or so in between—are just another thing that the human brain seems to instinctively enjoy for some reason.

Looking back over my own checkered sartorial past there are some choices that I don’t think I’d make again. My attempts to stage a comeback for the Axl Rose bandana headband maybe weren’t as necessary as I thought at the time. And out of all the pleather items that have passed through my closet, there are very few that I miss today. The only times I actually regret what I was wearing were times where I was more concerned with other people’s opinions of my appearance than my own, whether it was a WASPY ex with no sense of humor or coworkers with specific ideas about what “professional” looks like or cool people who I desperately wanted to think I was cool back.

So, should you regret taking part in the tiny sunglasses trend? No. Whatever you got out of it is something that another you, from a timeline where you sat it out will never know. In place of it they’ll have a shred—maybe a speck even tinier than the tiniest sunglasses, but there nonetheless—of regret for a thing they didn’t do.

But did they look good on you? Absolutely not.

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