Eyewear goes over the top

Eyewear with a brow bar - top bar that prominently links the two eye rims at the upper points of their perimeters - is the latest trend.
Eyewear with a brow bar - top bar that prominently links the two eye rims at the upper points of their perimeters - is the latest trend.PHOTO: TOM FORD/INSTAGRAM

NEW YORK • Eyeing the latest trend in eyewear?

Look no further than the showy top bar that prominently links the two eye rims at the upper points of their perimeters.

And you can see the contraption all over the place right now, from the mass-marketing of Sunglass Hut offerings to the gold-plated terrain of US$2,000 (S$2,800) Tom Ford spectacles, which boast a spiffy hinge on the high bridge of their clip-on lenses.

In general, frames boasting bold brow bars are variations on (or, at least, distant relations of) the classic pilot's sunglasses.

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The original aviators debuted around 1936, after the United States military commissioned Bausch & Lomb to improve on the bulkiness and discomfort of flight goggles.

Within the decade, the company was selling them to weekend sportsmen under the Ray-Ban trademark.

The frame's rise to fame - via General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines during World War II, Marlon Brando in 1953 movie The Wild One and Tom Cruise in 1986 film Top Gun - is a fascinating mash-up of military and pop-cultural history.

Its resurgence is, on one level, proof of the cyclical nature of style.

"Probably about five years ago, things slowly started evolving," said Mr David Rose, vice-president of design and manufacturing at California-based Salt Optics.

"That heavier acetate look and feel - the chunkier (musician) Elvis Costello thing - got too exaggerated, right?

"It evolved and contracted back the other way, to thinner-profile glasses, especially in metal."

Mr Zack Moscot, a fifth-generation owner of the New York eyewear institution that shares his surname, said the silhouette is in step with a "Me Decade" style revival.

"We don't see it dwindling any time soon," he noted of the trend.

"Many of our friends in the clothing world have been alluding to the 1970s.

"The aviator shape has been complementary to recent runway trends and colours."

It does not hurt too that these glasses go well with all the bomber jackets, field coats and camouflage pants that are continuing their reigns as staples of the civilian wardrobe.

But the top bar of the moment tends to be an over-the-top bar and, as such, it has steered the aviator's attitude to a new altitude.

Promoting the illusion of a facial expression that is firm with cool self-assurance, they have some impassive aggression to them.

Meanwhile, other top-drawer top bars sharply evoke the past.

They are the focal points of sunglasses that cast a vibe of assertive decadence in a 1970s way.

"When you use a double bridge with a round shape, a pilot shape or a caravan shape, you have the idea of something very vintage," said Mr Lionel Giraud, chief executive of the French brand Vuarnet.

Part of his job is to revitalise its classic models, but he has to weigh if the current top-bar trend has legs.

"I was a bit afraid to see so many models with double bridges," he conceded, well aware that the loss of exclusivity may well compel consumers to cast their eyes elsewhere for the next eyewear fashion statement.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2017, with the headline 'Eyewear goes over the top'. Print Edition | Subscribe