Tom Cruise gives me the willies. Even before he went wiggy for L. Ron, I never found his stubby bravado appealing: As a friend likes to claim, "I hated him first." And yet I do have to give him the Risky Business moment, when he loads the Wayfarers and gives the world an iconic teen home-alone air-guitar hero.
Last year, RayBan (which has also enjoyed a revival boom with its classic aviators) reissued the Wayfarer in a dozen candy colours (even a camouflage pattern), gifting it to celebrities at events like the Sundance Film Festival. The shades are a classic of modern design, first appearing in 1952 and adopted by other icons, from James Dean to Audrey Hepburn (she sports them in her hungover scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's). Jack Nicholson's face is permanently imprinted with his Wayfarers. These are a shape that suits pretty much any face shape. They make a subtle statement, and are not a personality substitute, as many accessories are. (Admit it, you have attributed style to many strangers just because they had rad shades. I do it all the time.)
Vintage princess Chloe Sevigny is one of the key trend-influencers of our times. Of course, when she was still in high school, she was famous for her style, immortalized by Jay McInerney as the downtown vintage maven in a piece for The New Yorker, even before she hooked up with Harmony Korine to become his kooky muse. Sevigny was onto the Wayfarer thing years before anyone else.
I would argue that the current rage for retro eyeglasses -beyond the gimmicky fun of big eighties horn rims - stems from the Wayfarer revival.
It's a fine line between nerdy and cool. Few among us can walk that tightrope with impunity. But the new colour spree Wayfarers make the trend accessible to everyone. Funnily enough, the Wayfarer has not been knocked off widely, until now. This is the summer where all the mall huts, the street vendors, the cheapo racks at cash registers are filled with colourful Wayfarer imitations.
Personally, I go back and forth between seeing God through polarized expensive lenses, where I enjoy fine designer shades and vow never to go cheap again. Then I lose three or four pairs and go on a run where I vow never to sink money into that hole again and I stock up on H&M sunglasses. Sunglasses of all price ranges take a mighty beating in my handbag, they are covered in fingerprints and random schmutz.
So here is the shopping math on this problem: At $181, the originals don't break the bank, and you can enjoy the polarized lenses (Wayfarers were the first line with this technology; the frame was also a breakthrough in the field of plastic moulding). But if you want to have a wardrobe of colours (and there is nothing more amusing than matching ones flip-flops to one's shades), I'd say buy a real pair in Tom Cruise black or classic tortoise shell and the rest in knockoff land.