From slip dresses to flannel shirts, fashion trends of the 1990s have undergone a huge resurgence in recent years. And really, it’s hardly surprising that a decade renowned for its unique styles, cool movies and vibrant music scene is being reclaimed in the social media age. Much like clothing and aspects of the culture, 90s accessories such as glasses are once again making their way into the mainstream.
Today trends are leaning into wayfarer and aviator shades, circular and distinctively coloured frames and tinted lenses. These types of silhouettes were characteristic of the 90s aesthetic thanks to the style icons who wore them.
What’s more 90s than oval tinted sunnies and tortoiseshell frames? Pulling inspiration from iconic red carpet looks and American television, in this blog we take a closer look at where 90s glasses got their start, as well as how you can embrace the nostalgia within your eyewear selection today.
Who Were the 90s Eyewear Trendsetters?
Musicians, movie stars, models and cultural icons hugely influenced the 90s wardrobe, and made unique and distinctive eyewear a part of every fashion lover’s accessory rotation.
Supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford were often photographed wearing sunglasses. Throughout the early 90s, Campbell frequently donned sunglasses that were modernised takes on popular styles from the 70s, 60s and 50s. For instance, thick-rimmed oval sunglasses became fashionable again during these years, with many options offering a multi-coloured or patterned frame rather than a single shade. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain even popularised this style amongst men.
Oversized glasses played a large role in 90s hip-hop style - with TLC, Lil Kim and Aaliyah all championing extra large frames. Worn by everyone from The Notorious BIG to Run-DMC, 90s hip-hop glasses found their origins when rappers started donning Cazal glasses, and is still indicative of the genre today. Alongside this, with the release of cult classic film Fight Club in 1999, the uber-famous Brad Pitt ensured that the oversized trend carried over into the new millennium.
With eyewear becoming such a feature piece, many celebrities opted for thick frames and bright colours in their selection. Mary J. Blige and Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are just some of the pioneers of this eye-catching style. Circular glasses were also widely prominent throughout the decade, with celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Bonet, Lenny Kravitz and Janet Jackson favouring this option.
Though 90s glasses were typically known for being attention-grabbing and loud, it's important that this was also a decade of sophistication. For example, Princess Diana always matched her eyewear with her outfits during royal appearances. Fashion designers also heavily influenced glasses trends: Karl Lagerfield opted for thick rims in his designs, while Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci and Valentino all offered their own takes on distinct eyewear that celebrities quickly adopted into their collections.
Top 5 90s Eyewear Trends
Tinted Oval Sunglasses
No monochrome outfit is complete without a pair of staple black sunglasses, and oval black-tinted sunnies will do just the trick. Get the Keanu Reeves look with Matrix Style Frames from Fino FB, or opt for a thicker frame with Ski Frames by Carrera. The oval shape is flattering for just about anyone, and the all-black finish practically oozes coolness. Pair with a black leather coat or bomber jacket for the ultimate 90s throwback look.
If black isn’t your thing, or you want an alternative for the summer months, opt for oval frames with a different lens colourway. Brown lenses are equally trendy whilst also offering a softer look, whereas fun shades like pink, purple or blue are quintessentially 90s and add a pop of colour to your outfit. Whichever colour you choose, tinted oval sunglasses are the ultimate accessory for social functions.
You might not be able to fly a plane like Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun, but that won’t stop you from looking fly with aviator-style frames. Whether you customise them with UV lenses or your own prescription, vintage aviator frames are one of the most enduring designs and have been popular since they hit the market in the late 40s. Thin gold metallic frames, such as the Senator G-34 Gold Frames from Conti, offer a modern twist on a classic shape and will complement any outfit. Whether you’re just running errands or heading out to dinner, aviator-style frames are flattering for any time of day.
Round Tortoiseshell Frames
Long gone are the days of circular specs being considered a “nerdy” choice. These days round frames are a staple fashion accessory that elevate any look they’re paired with. These round Onspec Ontic Frames come in a tortoiseshell pattern - paying homage to the retro silhouette whilst infusing it with a modern twist. The tortoiseshell colour palette looks great with a classic blue jeans and white t-shirt outfit for a casual yet chic look.
Eye-catching accessories are the name of the game when you’re strutting down the red carpet, and back in the 90s you can definitely find your favourite celebrity sporting a pair of oversized sunglasses. Whether you want to add an air of luxury to your streetwear, or need a sleek accessory to enhance your outfit for an event, oversized sunnies - such as these Karen Walker or Schau Schau shades - are sure to make a statement.
Rectangular frames are the ultimate 90s fashion accessory, and you’ve probably seen some of your favourite tv shows of the decade. Whether they’re prescription glasses or sunglasses, there are a wide variety of frames and styles to choose from when it comes to rectangular glasses to suit individual styles. Why not pair them with Princess Diana’s iconic sweatshirt and cycling shorts getup, or even a sweater vest to really lean into the retro look.
Why Should I Opt for Vintage Eyewear?
If you’re still wondering whether you should just get your eyewear from Specsavers or Vision Express like everyone else, here are just a few reasons why you should opt for a vintage supplier, like Ed & Sarna, instead.
Rare and Unique Styles Available
Everyone’s style is completely different, and our tastes in eyewear are no exception. As many of our vintage frames are rare styles, you can guarantee that you’re investing in a unique piece that will really stand out from the crowd. Ed & Sarna also offer a complete lens customisation service, meaning that you can create the perfect pair to match your style.
Vintage accessories, especially from designer brands, often make great investment pieces and tend to rise in value as time goes on. On top of this, the cost of re-lensing has decreased significantly as a result of technological advancements and factories being forced to clear through their old stock to make way for new lines. Designer frames are thus able to be sold for approximately 30% cheaper than the latest range.
Just like purchasing anything retro, choosing to buy vintage glasses means that you are actively doing your bit to practise sustainability by refusing to contribute to the over-consumptive nature of fast fashion. All Ed & Sarna vintage eyewear has never been worn before: nothing is second hand, but is actual new, old stock. A majority of our frames are refitted with new CR39 UV400 lenses, as they tend to need a little TLC after being stored in warehouses for many years.
About the Ed & Sarna Collection
Whether you’re in the market for a new pair of prescription glasses, or need some new sunnies for the summer months, find the eyewear of your dreams with vintage frames from Ed & Sarna. All of our glasses are original vintage frames that range from the 1950s to the 1990s - all of them have never been worn before and are, in most cases, one of a kind. We travel across Europe and the USA, sourcing frames from old distribution firms, manufactures and antique optometrists, always focusing on unique, statement piece accessories.
We understand the importance of feeling happy and comfortable with your new glasses, which is why we provide bespoke online eyewear consultations from the comfort of your home via webcam or phone. Get a closeup look at your potential new frames and benefit from our expert lensing advice, all without having to leave the house! We also offer a ‘try on at home’ service, which allows you to give your new frames a spin without having to pay anything until after you’ve decided they’re the right fit for you. All UK orders include free delivery and free 30-day returns.