Cinephiles: Sunglasses

Exploring Eyewear from the Movies with Dior,
Saint Laurent and Dries Van Noten

  • Text: SSENSE Editors

Cinephilia is the term we use to describe a passionate, near fetishistic fixation with the marvels of cinema—Cinephiles aims to harness this fixation for the purpose of unpacking select films' styling and implementation of a respective garment or accessory.

Today, we explore sunglasses—dark, light, gigantic, miniscule, delicate, clunky. While their fundamental purpose is to protect your eyes from ultra-violet rays, sunglasses, however subtly, perpetuate the spirit of any respective narrative. They embue an air of anonymity when you wish to be discreet, protect you from the elements as you fall through the sky, or keep a barrier between you and a terrible first date. Some sunglasses, though covering the eyes, say "look at me!" while others seem so second nature they stand out less than laces in a shoe. For "Cinephiles: Sunglasses," the SSENSE editors examine eyewear aesthetics that are both timeless and temporary.

Featured In This Image: Tom Ford sunglasses.

SICARIO 2 (2018)

Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 film Sicario was a near flawless action movie—dare we say Michael Mann’s Heat types of flawless. This summer’s Sicario 2—featuring a new director—ended up falling immensely short of expectations. Nevertheless, the sequel sees Benicio del Toro reprise his role as Alejandro Gillick, a ruthless mercenary with a very brutal past. Benicio has a type of next-level cool on and off screen, that like Keanu, cannot be imitated. The sleek, silver Izod shades that he wears in Sicario and the black full-tint wraparound sunglasses that he wears in Sicario 2 only serve to intensify his otherworldly chillness. Benicio’s Alejandro Gillick is an anti-hero legend in the making, and his sunglasses are an integral part of the equation—pragmatic and elusive.

Featured In This Image: Saint Laurent sunglasses.

SET IT OFF (1996)

Set It Off was way ahead of its time. The 1996 drama tells the story of four best friends—four women who are tired of living at the mercy of their reality and who will do anything to support one another. Their humor, strength, and bond is what makes their style throughout the film that much more on point, and is also what leads them to the natural next-step of friendship: robbing banks. Instead of masks, they choose matching sunglasses for their heists, a bold and badass move, to say the least. Cleo, Stony, Frankie, and T.T. knew how to stunt even under immense pressure. When you break it down, that’s exactly what sunglasses are for.

Featured In This Image: Gucci sunglasses.


Gena Rowlands’s turn as Minnie Moore in her husband, John Cassavetes’ 1971 film Minnie and Moskowitz, is so absorbing and elegant—sad, too—she might as well have invented what it means to look disenchanted. She says things like, “The movies are a conspiracy. They set you up to believe in…everything.”
Minnie’s mostly hopeful when she’s lighting a cigarette. Totally dead inside when she’s lighting a cigarette. Clowning around, too, when she’s lighting a cigarette. Bold and a little bit drunk when she’s lighting a cigarette. Rowlands can do a lot with her face. So it’s a wonder—or actually, it’s just wonderful, so, so wonderful—what she does throughout the film, with her face half-concealed, looking somewhat sedated and elsewhere in a pair of oversized, octagonal sunglasses. Rowlands wears those huge shades like she’s at funeral when really, she’s on a date. Or meeting her in-laws. Or simply dodging L.A.’s unrelenting sunlight and the day’s demand for appearing together, arranged. How does one mourn a terrible relationship in the L.A. sun? How does one enjoy the private thrill of her 2AM ice cream? Or answer the simplest, most terrifying question: “How are you?” How do you persuade yourself to rejoin the world after a broken heart? Rowlands is a marvel in those sunglasses. They occupy her face but disclose her mood—the possibility of a changing mood. Of happier times, on the horizon. The sunglasses are a stopgap. They’re buying Minnie some time. Providing her some space. They’re setting her up to believe, again, in everything. Maybe.

Featured In This Image: Dries Van Noten sunglasses.

BIG DADDY (1999)

Among other things, twin sibling actors defined the 90s. Cute blonde boys defined the 90s (a film and television moment that belongs to Jerry Maguire’s Jonathan Lipnicki). And little square sunglasses defined the 90s. These three peak-90s trends came together in 1999, just as the decade crested onto the next, when Dylan and Cole Sprouse starred in Big Daddy, taking turns playing 5-year-old Julian alongside Adam Sandler. In this film, Sandler (who the Sprouse brothers still site as a major influence and role model) plays Sonny, a deadbeat who decides to adopt his absent roommate’s kid to prove to his over-it ex that he can be responsible. His parenting style is kind of shitty and certainly unconventional, but leads to an admittedly adorable bond between the two. “See these right here? These are magic sunglasses, okay? If you’re afraid, you put them on and they make you invisible,” Sonny tells Julian. And just like that, he puts those perfectly unstylish-stylish 90s frames on the boy’s face. Invisible.


"I thought we'd stay together for the long haul, flying like a jumbo jet on a full tank. But we changed course," laments Cop 663 about his soured relationship with a stewardess. As its title might suggest, Chungking Express is seemingly all about movement. The ways in which our existence is constantly in flux—sometimes even our identity in flux—as we brush arms with strangers, navigating our lives and (sometimes unintentionally) sharing space. Faye is a California-dreaming waitress in a Hong Kong deli who frequently serves Cop 663, gradually developing a nearly imperceptible flirtation with him. While the film ends before a romance really flourishes, somehow it feels as though one already has. An ethereal suggestion of something happening temporally, like the milky-translucence of Faye’s frames.

Featured In This Image: Saint Laurent sunglasses.

GREASE (1978)

As Ja Rule and Ashanti confirmed via their music video for "Mesmerized," the 1978 magnum opus Grease served us the ultimate lesson in romance: how to gain—and hold onto—your lover's attention. The film's iconic girl group, The Pink Ladies, hinted that the key is starting with a small, simple gesture—one involving a pair of sunglasses. Whether it be a sultry slide down the nose to take a prolonged peer at bae, or an obnoxious wiggle with raised brows to insinuate something a little freakier, our eyewear has the potential to function as somewhat of a human mating call. Take your heart-eye emoji DM to the next level by bringing it to life—transfix your crush today with Saint Laurent's Lou Lou sunglasses.

Featured In This Image: Dior sunglasses.


Judging by the trailer for the seventh instalment in its series, Fallout is exactly what you'd expect the 2018 edition of a Mission Impossible to be—loud, fast, and action packed to a point that verges on the absurd. One of the film's climactic moments features Tom Cruise getting into some “risky business” of his own by performing a HALO (high altitude low open) jump. Tom Cruise is the first actor to complete this stunt himself, and it might not have been possible without the help of his custom-made helmet, which, according to a short promo video devoted to his special feat, "is both a prop and a life saving device." This is where it gets exciting—these aforementioned attributes aren't reserved solely for the garb of elite, skydiving celebs—Dior offers us an accessory that's equally a little bit of both. Showy, but 100% prevents sunburns. Is it a visor? Is it sunglasses? Whatever it is, it's see-through and has UV protection, so while you may not be able to skydive and stave off hypoxia, you could probably, definitely, drive really fast on a motorcycle and not feel too annoyed by the incessant, cheek-flapping wind as you rush to the theater to watch stuntman Tom do it in the movie.

  • Text: SSENSE Editors