This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
I am: a person who loves clothes (every payday I get the same old itch, sending me down an ASOS hole from which I emerge, hours later, struggling for breath, with nothing to show but a sense of shame so strong I fear it can be smelt on me, seven tops and a pair of cords which I know will be too long when I add them to my curséd basket, delivered to my work the next day via Premier Delivery).
I am also: a suggestible little soul who follows Kylie Jenner on Instagram (one of those things that feels less like a choice – what to have for dinner, what time to go to bed – and more like a mandatory part of life. How else does one keep a handle on what the teens are into, coddling oneself into the illusion of beating mortality?)
You will not be surprised to learn, then, that I came out of my last internet shopping blackout covered in figurative vomit: I bought a pair of those abominable little fucking sunglasses.
I spend the majority of my time as a consumer convinced that popular fashion is just a game made up by the super-wealthy to see what deranged tat they can get the proles to wear. Of course, style is about expressing yourself, and everyone should wear whatever they like – ideas about clothes and accessories having to be necessarily "flattering" be damned. But the style of a few quickly morphs into fashion at large, and we often end up loading up on crap we don't even like in what feels like a collective fugue, just because it's there.
In the years that I've been a member of the clothes-buying public, "fashion" has given us: waist belts, disco pants, platform sandals, low-rise jeans, bootcut jeans, way too tight skinny jeans, jeans and blazers, jeans and sheux, thoes heinous Topman tops with the neon piping and the three buttons down the front that every guy in high school used to wear, cargo pants, SAVE THE RAVE T-shirts, "shackets," "cold shoulders," cycling shorts repurposed as legitimate daywear, bodycon, and girls named Isabelle in Burberry-print boob tubes. We have come to regret much of this.
What I am trying to say is that you know when you look at your Facebook pictures from 2009 and wonder very seriously about what the fucking hell your eyebrows were doing, and also why you were wearing flame Converse? That's going to be you looking through your BOOMTOWN 2018 album—which, out of 273 images, contains a grand total of zero where you're not wearing those stupid glasses—in, ooh, 18 months?
The rule of sunglasses is this:
"Your perceived hotness when wearing the sunglasses goes up a percent for every inch of your face covered by the sunglasses."
This is why everyone on Love Island wears sunglasses with lenses the size of minor planets, and it's also why you want to fuck everyone in the summer. This, of course, has to do with the mystery they foster: not knowing what's behind those lenses allows us to project exactly what we want onto the spaces they cover. You know this; I know it, too. So why did I buy the tiny sunglasses that just let my whole normal face hang out?
Our fashionable friends at i-D think that the tiny sunglasses trend is all about being WHIMSICAL and FREE and NOT GIVING A FUCK and NOT USING SUNGLASSES TO HIDE YOUR EYEBAGS BECAUSE YOU LOVE AND EMBRACE YOUR EYEBAGS, and I think that is probably true because it feels very in keeping with a current fashion moment that feels defined by "empowerment." This, however, is probably not why I tagged a pair onto the end of an ASOS binge. Ostensibly, I bought them because I was influenced, by Kylie Jenner and by Bella Hadid and by all of the other tiny sunglasses wearers who are beautiful and glamorous. Do you want to know something else the tiny sunglasses wearers have in common? They are younger than me.
I'm not saying I bought the tiny sunglasses because I'm scared of dying, but I'm also not not saying that. There’s something about fashion—and particularly about micro-trends like this one, that flower and die by the hand of social media—which feels inextricably linked to youth and the retention of it. It’s not difficult to see why this is: High fashion fetishizes youth, and, for the most part, micro trends—which often manifest on the market as cheap and easily accessible—are aimed at young consumers who are plugged into popular culture. Nobody could blame me for wanting the tiny sunglasses because the gorgeous, young people who I digitally surround myself with exposed me to them constantly.
But when I took them out of the packaging and looked at myself in the mirror in the cold light of day, the spell was broken. I didn't look like a Depop model; I just looked like a human-sized insect. I realized that while tiny sunglasses and the illusion of youth are nice, it is also considered quite good to be able to get sunglasses off your head once you've put them on? And to be able to see out of them? In this moment of caring about functionality, I realized there was no elixir of youth—not even tiny sunglasses—that would save me. I realized that even if there were, to partake in it would not be worth spending an entire summer looking like I'm at a Halloween party, telling everyone I've come as "The Matrix," having dumped the long black coat I fashioned out of garbage bags one hour before.
It doesn’t have to be this way for any of us. You can wear normal sunglasses, and your future self will thank you when you're looking back on your photos in years to come, laughing at your friends and how ridiculous they look. Listen to me: You’re going to die. You are going to die whether you wear the tiny sunglasses or not.
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