There is a scene in the 2006 rom-com film The Holiday where Jude Law’s character is attempting to entertain his children by becoming ‘Mr Napkinhead’. Said ‘Napkinhead’ is brought to life when Law throws a white linen serviette over his face, and wears his glasses over the top, causing the kids to shriek with joy.
It’s all fun and games when miming at the dinner table, but what about during a heatwave in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic, when we’re all attempting to wear our now-compulsory face coverings with our sunglasses at the supermarket?
Wearing sunglasses with a face mask presents an incredibly strange sartorial challenge for anyone who isn’t used to wearing the combination (face coverings, of course, have been common for centuries in many cultures). To the uninitiated, though, it’s a look which means you can’t see any element of a person’s face below the forehead. No wonder the celebrities already seem to love it – it offers them unrivalled anonymity.
Many have attested to the power of a ‘smize’ (smiling with your eyes) as a way of communicating since face coverings became mandatory in shops and on public transport in the UK. But when your eyes are covered by sunglasses, too, what now?
The hot-weather pairing also presents a different set of issues to wearing a face covering with optical glasses (although the steaming problems can still apply – see a guide to rectifying those, here).
For anyone who needs to style sunglasses with a face covering this summer, without looking like you’ve gone incognito, here are some tips…
1. Seek light and shade
Dark glasses and a dark face mask don’t work together. If your sunglasses are black, pick a face covering in a lighter colour, or summery print, to offset them, otherwise the two will merge visually. Likewise, if you’ve got sepia lenses and light frames, you may wish to opt for a darker fabric covering. The alpha move is to do a Sienna Miller, and pick a pair from your vast collection of sunglasses that will harmonise with one hue from the print of your face covering. Tortoiseshell frames, I’d say, will go with anything.
2. Utilise metallic rims
The only exception to the rule above is if your dark lenses are framed with contrasting rims. See Joe Biden, in gold-rim Ray Ban aviators, worn with a black face covering, as evidence of the graphic definition which can be achieved.
3. Beware of oversized shapes
Oversized sunglasses, in a typical summer, are a universally popular choice. They make the face shape seem smaller, the jawline look more chiseled. Alas, this year, they’re out. Said frames would come down too low on the cheeks, overlapping with the face mask in a way that causes the two blanked-out areas to merge and might press down on your already-limited breathing space behind the mask.
4. Instead choose a classic
The tiny 1990s-style sunglasses which staged a comeback last summer also look bizarre with a face covering. Showing too much cheek looks as weird as showing none at all. Any types of trend-led, or novelty-esque glasses should be avoided at all costs – this just isn’t their time. Stick with classic frames (aviators, cat eyes, Wayfarers, teashades) for the best chance of pulling this off.
5. Consider lighter tint lenses
The key point here is that you can still see your eyes through a lighter colour, or less heavily shaded lens. If you’re worried your social signals may be misread, or have only just learned to ‘smize’ this is the option for you.
6. Keep your hair off your face
The more forehead, chin and neck on show, the better. Wear your hair up, if possible, or at least pull it back from shrouding your face. Not to mention the fact that in the heat, with all that extra fabric on, it will go some way to help with keeping you cool.