Why it's time to embrace '60s style and dust off your white sunglasses

Muriel Maxwell for Vogue by Horst P. Horst in 1939
Muriel Maxwell for Vogue by Horst P. Horst in 1939 Credit: Conde Nast Collection Editorial

When it comes to shopping for your summer wardrobe, you might be tempted to start with a shirtwaister dress, or a pair of classic tan sandals. But the highest-impact buy has to be your summer sunglasses, since not only do you wear them with everything, but they’re also the first part of your outfit that anyone will notice.

Francoise Hardy in 1966 Credit: Hulton Archive

A great pair of sunglasses is an investment - which is why I’d usually advise you steer clear of anything that could look ‘novelty’. But while white sunglasses might not be an expected choice, they’re not a flash in the pan one, either. Thanks to striking impact of a bright white frame, they’ve been a favourite in the pages of fashion magazines as far back as the 30s, when Horst P. Horst shot model Muriel Maxwell in a graphic round pair for the cover of American Vogue.

Mirrored sunglasses, £75, Le Specs; Square sunglasses, £265, Saint Laurent

It was the 1960s, though, when white sunglasses really became the thing. I defy anyone to find anything kitsch about French actress Francoise Hardy’s choice of square white shades. Paired with a trench coat, black poloneck and shaggy haircut, Hardy looks effortlessly pulled together - but that flash of white stops her outfit from veering towards basic.

Brigitte Bardot in 1966 Credit: Hulton Archive

Fellow Parisian it-girl Brigitte Bardot favoured oval white sunglasses in her off-duty wardrobe, and oversized squared white frames on screen for the film ‘The Doll and the Bear’ - though perhaps Audrey Hepburn wins the prize for the most iconic pair. Her 1966 turn in ‘How To Steal A Million’ was outfitted by Hubert de Givenchy himself, hence the mod-meets-spaceman helmet hat that matched her saucer sunglasses.

Round sunglasses, £10, Monki; Cat-eye sunglasses, £210, Prism

When it comes to wearing white sunglasses yourself (and off-screen, i’m assuming), keep the rest of your outfit low-key. Take your cues from Bardot in all-black for a subtle nod to the 1960s. Block colour pastels - see Diana Kruger in pepto bismol pink - are a safe bet, too, as are delicate florals, but I’d give any more graphic prints (stripes, checks and psychedelics) a miss, lest you look like you’ve wandered out of an Austin Powers party. By that token: no hats, please. Unless you’re planning an art heist, in which case: best make yours Givenchy.