Josh, 27, of Hell’s Kitchen, has a message for his Brooklyn coevals: “Hey hipsters, stop wearing my fucking sunglasses!”
Josh estimates he bought his first pair of classic Ray-Ban Wayfarers “when I was like ten,” and he’s distressed to see how they’ve become, in the past several months, just another accessory-of-the-moment—no different than a trucker hat. “These sunglasses are rock ’n’ roll,” he said, noting that he works as a record producer. “The Traveling Wilburys, they all wore them!”
Wayfarers are everywhere. And by everywhere, we mean that they’re about go the way of—well, trucker hats. First released in 1952, Wayfarers were subsequently immortalized by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Bob Dylan, the Blues Brothers, Tom Cruise in Risky Business, and Don Henley, circa ’84 (“Boys of Summer,” anyone?). In the mid-80’s, they fell out of favor among trendsetters (was it Mr. Henley’s fault?) only to re-emerge this year with all the subtlety of an AK-47. The resurgence is partially due to the rerelease of the classic Wayfarer late last year by Luxottica (effectively the NewsCorp of the eyeglass world; it bought Ray-Ban in 1999), and to Sienna Miller broadcasting the new white-rimmed version from the pages of USWeekly. Corporate marketing, celebrity endorsement—hipsters take their cues from this stuff? Or was it fashion’s 80’s revival? Whatever inspired the disaffected youth, they painted the town with Wayfarers—black, brown, and newly issued white and red—beginning early this spring.
Chris, 28, of the East Village, says he bought his brown Wayfarers “last year, when no one was wearing them.” But once he started seeing them in white and red all over the L train this summer, he said, he’d had enough. “It’s fun to have a distinctive style,” he said. “But when everyone else is wearing that style, it’s not fun anymore. Even the tourists in Rockefeller Center are wearing them now. Fourteen-year-old girls who probably got them at the mall.”
Indeed, it seems that what started on Bedford has now crept all the way up Madison. “You see investment bankers wearing the Wayfarer to lunch,” said Eric Sacher, manager at Selima Optique on Broome. He agreed that this has caused somewhat of a backlash among the hipsters who first launched the trend. “Yesterday I had two different guys come in and say, ‘I’ve had the Wayfarers since spring, and I just counted 12 people wearing them as I was walking down the street; I need to get something new.”
Mr. Sacher put things in perspective thusly: “The Wayfarer and the Aviator are the most famous sunglasses in the history of sunglasses.” And some, like Josh, the record producer, find it tragic that certain people—we can’t bear to type the word again, so we’ll just call them style-conscious, irony-minded twentysomethings—have chewed, spit out and left for dead (i.e., turned them into the preferred sunglasses of tourists in Rockefeller Center) such an iconic American accessory. “Now you even see those prep-school-looking kids wearing them,” he said dismally. “There’s nothing worse than some blond-haired guy with a polo sweater wearing Ray-Bans.”