7 of the Most Classic Men’s Sunglass Styles (and Where to Get Them)

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Sunglasses are kind of like the Kardashians of the menswear world:

It sometimes feels like there are millions of them out there, but at bottom they’re all kind of the same.

Likewise, when it comes to men’s sunglasses there are thousands of different frames on the market from a wide-range of sunglass brands.

Aviator sunglasses on display in store
It may seem like there are thousands of different frames out there, but most are variations of just a few fundamental archetypes
[image: Creative Lab / Shutterstock]

But when you look closely, you’ll start to notice that the vast majority of designs are variations of just a few basic archetypes.

And there’s a (rather obvious) reason why designers rarely stray far from these classic shapes.

Because they make men look cool.

Sure, they also happen to block harmful UV rays and make it easier to see on bright days, but let’s be honest:

Lens quality and UV protection aren’t the real reasons why we like to wear shades.

The Most Classic Sunglass Styles of All Time…

Muhammad Ali wearing black sunglasses

The best sunglasses can instantly elevate your look by adding a stylish touch of mystery to the equation, especially when you opt for the sort of classic design that makes any man look cool and confident.

To that end, below you’ll find seven of the most classic sunglass styles ever designed.

Of course, even the most classic sunglasses style can sometimes use a little refreshing, which explains the huge growth of direct-to-consumer eyewear retailers.

Brands like Warby Parker, LookOptic and Diff Eyewear have made a huge impact on the sunglass world by offering unique styles at a fair price point.

But here’s the secret that they don’t often advertise:

For the most part, their “modern” styles are really just updated versions of the classic styles listed below.

…and a Few Modern Updates

So, to give you multiple ways to find a good pair of sunglasses, below I’ve linked to both the original, classic style and a couple updated takes from some more modern brands.

Whether you’re the kind of person who wants the vintage OGs or their more modern updates, the cool sunglasses listed below will let you shield your eyes in classic style.

(And by “classic” I mean “handsome as hell.”)

Classic Sunglasses for Men

The 7 Most Stylish and Classic Sunglasses for Men

Breaking Down the Most Timeless, Unimpeachable and All-Around Best Men’s Sunglasses Styles ↓
Classic Sunglasses for Men

Wayfarers

Michael Madsen wearing Wayfarers in Resevoir Dogs
Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde rocked Wayfarers to perfection in Resevoir Dogs

Why They’re Classic:

First designed in 1952 by American optical designer Raymond Stegeman, the original Ray-Ban Wayfarers are damn near the perfect pair of shades.

These vintage sunglasses are also one of the most versatile sunglass styles of the past century, and have helped make Ray-Ban a truly iconic eyewear brand.

Wayfarers were designed in the same mid-century modern era that gave birth to classic furniture trends like the Eames Chair and the Womb Chair, and presented the eyewear world with equally timeless options.

As the design critic Stephen Bayley has noted, the key to their success lies in the iconic design of the acetate frame shape:

“[The] distinctive trapezoidal frame spoke a non-verbal language that hinted at unstable dangerousness, but one nicely tempered by the sturdy arms which, according to the advertising, gave the frames a ‘masculine look.”

The result is arguably the most versatile, classic and handsome style of sunglasses ever designed, and one that looks good on any face shape.

They’ve been sported by everyone from Muhammad Ali, John F. Kennedy and the Resevoir Dogs to Justin Timberlake and Matthew McConaughey.

So you could say they’re Alright, alright, alright

Of course, that’s a terrible joke, so you probably shouldn’t.

The Classic Option:
The Modern Update:

Ray Ban New Wayfarers

Glen Powell as Hangman wearing New Wayfarers
Tom Cruise may still have his aviators, but in Top Gun: Maverick, Glen Powell’s Hangman rocks a pair of New Wayfarers on the beach

Why They’re Classic:

It’s hard to improve upon a legend, but Ray-Ban somehow managed to pull it off.

Fifty years after Stegeman designed the original Wayfarers, Ray-Ban created a new pair that slightly tweaked the timeless style of the original.

While the originals have become arguably the most classic old money sunglasses men can own, these more modern Wayfarer styles are more versatile, and have become even more popular.

They slightly smaller lenses that maintain much of the original’s shape, but are a bit more rounded at the temples.

In addition, the new Wayfarer has less lens tilt, meaning that the lenses hue more closely to your face while wearing them.

The result is quite possibly the 21st century’s most stylish pair of shades, and (not surprisingly) one of the most popular men’s styles on the market today.

The Classic Option:
The Modern Update:

Aviators

Daniel Craig wearing Tom Ford Aviators in Skyfall
Think Maverick was the only on-screen icon to rock aviators to perfection? Think again.

Why They’re Classic:

When it comes to wire frames (as opposed to the Wayfarer’s plastic), it simply doesn’t get more classic than a pair of aviators.

Made famous by – you guessed it – pilots, aviator sunglasses have a badass backstory that dates back to before WWII and continues to add attitude to any look.

Today they’re worn by some of the most stylish men in Hollywood, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Craig (both in real lief and as James Bond), and a certain ahem Maverick traveler on the highway to the Danger Zone.

The Classic Option:
The Modern Update:

Square Aviators

Don Draper wearing square aviators in Mad Men
Go ahead, find me a more handsome-ass pair of shades. I’ll wait.

Why They’re Classic:

When our brave and handsome-ass grandfathers came back from WWII, they brought their aviators with them, sparking a menswear trend that designers quickly jumped on.

Variations of the aviator emerged, including a version with a more squared off lens.

Sported by fictional icons like Don Draper and Hollywood’s many spies, the square aviator also has the distinct advantage of helping real-world men elevate their personal style.

The Classic Option:
The Modern Update:

The Clubmaster 

Tim Roth wearing Clubmaster sunglasses in Resevoir Dogs
Mr. Blonde may have worn Wayfarers, but Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange opted for Clubmasters

Why They’re Classic:

With its timeless silhouette and undeniable cool factor, Clubmaster style sunglasses have secured their place in the pantheon of iconic accessories.

The distinctive browline and round lenses offer a vintage vibe that exudes sophistication and confidence, making them a perfect choice for any discerning gentleman.

In addition to sophistication, Clubmasters also offer versatility.

They work just as well on rounder faces as they do on square face shapes, and can be paired with everything from a sharp suit to a casual pair of shorts and t-shirt.

The Classic Option:
The Modern Update:

The Steve McQueen Persol 714 

Steve McQueen wearing Persol sunglasses in the Thomas Crown Affair
As charming as Steve McQueen was, his Persols stole the show in the original Thomas Crown Affair

Why They’re Classic:

Made famous by one of the most prominent style icons and Hollywood bad boys of the past century, the foldable Persol 714 was an absolute favorite of McQueen.

He famosly wore these classic Persol sunglasses both offscreen and on, most notably in The Thomas Crown Affair.

Today the model is available in a variety of lens colors, but McQueen’s choice of tortoiseshell frame with blue lenses remains one of my all-time-favorite pairs of shades.

It’s the perfect way to add a pop of color to your wardrobe, and an excellent contrast to the (classic, but staid) black frames sported by most guys.

The Classic Option:
The Modern Update:

Carrera Champions

(aka The Paul Newman Sunglasses) 
Paul Newman wearing Carrera Champion Sunglasses
Paul Newman wore the Carrera Champions, both in real life and on screen in 1969’s Winning

Why They’re Classic:

Kind of a cross between a Wayfarer and an Aviator, Carrera’s Champion model was made famous by yet another style icon – Cool Hand Luke himself, Mr. Paul Newman.

Singlehandedly demonstrating their versatility, Newman wore Champions everywhere from the racetrack to the beach to the red carpet.

The larger size of the lenses make a serious style statement, especially when you opt for a brown tint on the lenses, which again helps you stand out from the standard black, gray and green tints found on most frames.

The Classic Option:
The Modern Update:

FAQ


More Optical Advice from Irreverent Gent:

About Dave Bowden

Dave Bowden

Founder, Irreverent Gent
Author, Man in Command and Stop Doubting, Start Dating
Writer, Really Wordy Author Bios

Dave Bowden is a style blogger, menswear expert and best-selling author (in Canada—but still!) whose advice on how to look good and live well has been featured in New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Men's Health and more.

When not obsessing over style and self-improvement, he can usually be found spending time with his wonderful wife and two amazing sons, indulging in a hoppy craft beer, or sobbing over the woeful state of Toronto's sports teams.

Check out Dave's Style Story to find out how a chance encounter with his friend's step-dad taught him the value of looking good and living well (don't worry—it's less creepy than it sounds!), or email him at [email protected] if you want to get in touch.

6 thoughts on “7 of the Most Classic Men’s Sunglass Styles (and Where to Get Them)”

  1. Clubmasters! I’ve been looking for a pair like them but I never knew what they were called. Was searching for “glasses with plastic on top but not bottom” lol. This was what I needed. Thanks!!

    • Glad I could be of service, Jonny! And good choice in going for the “glasses with plastic on top but not bottom.” A rose (or pair of shades) by any other name…

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