Shades of chic

Zenoyise Madikwa

Zenoyise Madikwa

Sunglasses have been in vogue since someone realised that by darkening a spectacle lens you could protect your eyes, add to your allure and hide the windows to your soul.

Then fashion took over and shades began to signify glamour and sophistication, playfulness, mystery and slightly sinister goings-on. Sunglasses have never gone out of fashion and are considered an important accessory in power dressing.

Local celebs like Ntando Bangani, pictured, have bought into the sunglass craze. He said he would not be caught dead without his pair of trendy, classy Soviet sunglasses.

"Soviet has the most amazing frames. They make me look like a celeb. They are stylish and I get glasses for all occasions and weather. I wear them to performances, parties and red-carpet events."

Another well-known sunglass fanatic is Nhlanhla Nciza of Mafikizolo. Her oversized glasses have become her trademark.

Mxo is always in shades. Though he does not always choose the best frames for his face, he still looks funky.

Truth is, we are all a little like Ntando, Nhlahla and Mxo in the face-furniture department

We wear sunglasses all year round, summer and winter, sunshine and rain, inside and outside, on our faces or even on top of our heads. Though some have a price tag that looks like a monthly pay cheque, we still buy them.

But what's the difference between summer and winter sunglasses? Cindy Koen, marketing coordinator of Soviet Eyewear, said unlike their summer counterparts, winter sunglasses usually have lighter lenses, allowing you to see clearly on dull days while still reducing glare and protecting eyes.

James Holmberg, an eye specialist based at St Dominic's Hospital in East London, said people should always choose the right lenses.

"Sunglasses are an important health-protective device and should be chosen carefully. Ask for professional advice before buying them."

For general use and driving, choose grey, green or brown lenses.

Holmberg said these colours soften the glare without distorting colour vision. He added that photochromic lenses that turn dark in the sun and light indoors are also good for general use.

"However, plastic photochromic lenses do not get as dark inside a car as do glass photochromics. Gradient lenses that are dark at the top and light at the bottom might be useful if you have trouble seeing the dashboard through solid lenses."

He added that amber and orange lenses sharpen vision by absorbing most of the blue and green wavelengths in sunlight.

Choose amber and orange to cut the haze, especially when playing or watching sports, but don't use them for driving.

l Polaroid lenses cut reflected glare, making them excellent for driving and swimming.

l A dark lens tint does not necessarily mean the lens blocks UV rays.

"If you are outside a lot, choose sunglasses that have UV protection tags. Look for lenses that provide protection from UVA and UVB radiation. UV rays can cause painful sunburn of the eyes and have been linked to the development of cataracts.

Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs might make you more sensitive to UV radiation in sunlight. UV-blocking sunglasses will reduce the chances of eye damage because of solar UV rays if you are taking photosensitising drugs."

l Beware of distorted reflections from the lens surfaces.

l Check the quality of frames.

"Frames may be metal, plastic, carbon fibre or nylon. Lenses should fit snugly, without a visible gap between the frame and the edge of the lens. The frame should be smooth along all surfaces and the hinge joining the legs to the frame front should be sturdy."

l Check the fit.

"They should sit close to the eyes to block light from the sides. The frame should allow for some adjustment of the nose-pads so they don't pinch the nose or behind the ears, and the frame doesn't slide down your nose.

The shape of the frame should complement the shape of your face.

l Heart-shaped face - a frame with a heavy lower edge adds width to the bottom of the face.

l Square face - an oval or round shape softens the jaw line.

l Oval face - almost any frame shape is suitable.

l Round face - square or angular frames offset the roundness.