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Why We Love to Hate Tiny Sunglasses

Are they inherently evil? No. But sort of.

Photos: @kendalljenner/Instagram; @badgalriri/Instagram; @bellahadid/Instagram

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All fashion trends are scams, but every so often, one bubbles up in the collective consciousness, forcing us all to be mad at it at the same time. Right now it’s tiny sunglasses, those diminutive, barely eyeball-size versions that don’t seem to perform their stated function of providing shade very well at all. But again, like all fashion trends, their lack of practicality isn’t why we’re mad at them.

Because to be fair, everything fashionable is less practical than the alternative, which is either a) being fully naked when it’s hot, b) wearing utility jumpsuits with a million pockets when it’s medium, or c) wearing the skin of an enormous furry animal when it’s cold. That clothes are not always functional is hardly controversial. And yet tiny sunglasses are.

Last week, two bona fide famouses echoed the opinions many others had already expressed over drinks or online during the past year, which is that these things are bad. “I think we will regret this tiny sunglasses look,” tweeted Mindy Kaling; Anne Hathaway then took a screenshot and Instagrammed it in agreement.

That “tiny sunglasses look” is often traced back to a January episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, in which Kim says that her husband Kanye West sent her an email forbidding her from wearing big sunglasses anymore. “He sent me like, millions of ’90s photos with tiny little glasses like this,” she said.

On Wednesday’s we wear pink. : @ajmukamal

A post shared by Zoë Kravitz (@zoeisabellakravitz) on

Kanye didn’t invent the resurgence of this trend — some credit Adam Selman, or Alessandro Michele, or Balenciaga, or smaller brands like George Keburia or Poppy Lissiman — nor did he invent the larger aesthetic that tiny sunglasses fall within, which is essentially a revival of millennium-era pop culture and tech (which is why small shades often end up looking like Matrix cosplay).

This is fairly predictable, considering the oft-referenced idea that cool young people are drawn to trends that were popular when they were too young to take part in them. A 20-year-old today would have been an infant when The Matrix came out, so one could make the argument that when Bella Hadid wears comically small sunglasses, she is simply subconsciously iterating an idea that to her, feels novel.

The pendulum swing of fashion is also partly responsible here. i-D described the tiny glasses as a backlash against the “hate-blockers” of the past decade-plus: “2018’s micro-lens is free. It’s unabashed. It embraces its eye bags, its bleached eyebrows, its weirdness. It exposes the face of the wearer, whoever, wherever they are.”

Still, why do they inspire such vitriol? After all, many people who were teenagers or adults around the millennium wore teensy rectangular glasses without it feeling somewhat icky — even Goldie Hawn wore the angled Lolita versions (impeccably!) in The First Wives Club.

I asked my colleague Eliza Brooke, who knows absolutely everything about fashion, who has spent a large amount of time among professionally young and hot people, and who also despises this particular trend. “It feels like a pissing contest between extremely beautiful people under the age of 25,” she says. “It’s like they’re trying to one-up each other in finding the most bizarre eyewear on the planet in order to show that no matter what they wear, they remain super hot.”

I think that is a very fair point and also speaks to the baffling rise of “perv” glasses among this very same demographic. Tiny sunglasses spark anger because they aren’t designed for the rest of us — fleshy, withering, influence-less normies who, given the choice, would probably have our sunglasses cover our full eyeballs, thanks. But this is also just how fashion trends are, and because tiny sunglasses have already trickled down to suburban shopping malls and street vendors, it’s not likely that they’ll last all that much longer. Once us normies get ahold of something, it is, as the old saying goes, “over for you hoes.”