sunglasses worn in music

Sunglasses in Musical Culture

Do you wear your sunglasses at night? Or maybe your future is so bright, you gotta wear shades? You’ve surely heard these phrases before and possibly sang as you said them! Both famous phrases come from popular 80s songs; Corey Hart first sang “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night” in 1983 and Timbuk 3 boasted their need for shades in 1986 with “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”. Music often celebrates sunglasses lyrically, so we thought it was time to highlight prolific sunglasses in musical culture!

Sunglasses are worn quite frequently by musicians, especially rock artists, as it gives the allure of mystery. Plus, it goes without saying that musical artists just look cooler when they have on sunglasses. Musicians like U2’s Bono can be seen sporting slightly tinted shades and John Lennon was known for his perfectly round lenses. For rock musicians, they can use sunglasses as a way of creating a persona while simultaneously crafting an aesthetic. But that is not to say that the sunglasses they wear do not serve a purpose. For example, Bono wears them because he suffers from a medical condition known as glaucoma and his eyes are sensitive to light. Which is why you will often see the U2 frontman in yellow or orange lenses that do allow some light. In addition, sunglasses can help protect musicians’ eyes from flashing camera lights and stage lighting while performing making sunglasses an effortless accessory for the rock genre.

But our journey through sunglasses in music doesn’t stop there. Much like rock, the hip-hop genre uses shades to create an aesthetic, but often hip-hop artists take it a step further to make actual fashion statements. Kanye West certainly wasn’t afraid to build upon the classic aviator when he wore white plastic shutter shades in the “Stronger” music video in 2005. But Mr. West wasn’t the first hip-hop artist to redefine sunglasses. In the 1980s, Run DMC couldn’t be seen without their oversized and extremely square frames with gold arms. Hip-hop as a genre has used sunglasses not just as an accessory to be worn on stage but to create memorable and iconic looks.

When we think about iconic looks worn by musicians, we also can’t forget about some of the most recognizable names in country music. Hank Williams Jr. has been using dark lenses for his trademark look with his cowboy hat and beard since the 1970s. Fast forward to today and you’ll see Eric Church in in classic aviators and a ball cap. And while country artists may wear simpler sunglasses styles to complete their look, once again we see how sunglasses go hand-in-hand (or eye-to-eye) with a musician’s image.

From rock to rap to country, and many other genres, sunglasses have had a starring role in all types of musical culture. So, whether you wear your sunglasses at night or use them to make a fashion statement, you can bet that as trends and musical genres evolve so will the styles of sunglasses!