Today is National Sunglasses Day, but instead of scrolling through general histories of famous specs, why not explore a hyper-specific, seemingly useless iteration of the accessory: Shutter shades. The likelihood of your or your friends wearing this useful-only-for-fashion-purposes style in the past few years probably depends on the theme of parties you attend (Fourth of July, New Years Eve, frat fetes, etc.), but the idea behind the glasses has existed in various forms for centuries.
One of the earliest specimens of sunglasses were Inuit snow goggles, some of which can be dated as far back as the year 1000. This simple design of blocking out light but allowing the wearer to see out of a small slit was the inspiration for André Courrèges’s 1965 “Eskimo Glasses,” which were made oversized, plastic, and more in line with his space-age designs.
Eyewear designer Oliver Goldsmith made his own variations on this style in the ’60s as well, crafting glasses with extremely small slits, multiple openings, or coloring them to look like the Union Jack.
Shutter shades, in the style as we know them today (with multiple slats that mimic window blinds), have been around since the 1950s, as seen in this image from Life magazine. But these vanity glasses are more closely associated with the 1980s, when they were worn in the music videos for “Glittering Prize” by Simple Minds (1982), and “Obsession” by Animotion (1984). Today, they are best known as being worn by Kanye West, who donned a pair of custom shutter shades by Alain Mikli in his 2006 video for “Stronger,” which then set a trend in the early 2000s of owning the glasses. They even appeared seeing on the runway at the 2011 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Behold, yet another glorious example of function being transformed into fashion.