If you follow movie stars in the media, you might think they were issued a pair of dark sunglasses with their first studio contract. It's not just actors and actresses that favor sunglasses as their go-to form of luxury eyewear, either. Musicians and other celebrities never seem to be without them. There are many reasons for this phenomenon.
First, celebrities like publicity, but they prefer it on their own terms. Wearing sunglasses gives the wearer a modest amount of anonymity. True celebrities are so recognizable that you can spot them no matter what they're wearing, but sunglasses and a hat have been a favorite for avoiding run-ins with the paparazzi for decades.
Second, sunglasses lend an air of mystery. Celebrities live their entire lives in the public eye, but every person wants as much privacy as they can get. Sunglasses obscure your eyes. That allows you to look around without revealing exactly what you're looking at. Because your eyes are so expressive, it's easy for people wearing sunglasses to avoid revealing very much about their mood.
Third, sunglasses have become as important as luxury eyewear as they are for keeping the sun out of your eyes. Sunglasses weren't originally considered a fashion accessory in the same way a fine watch or a stunning piece of jewelry would be. They were designed to be worn while boating or mountain climbing to cut down on glare. It wasn't until movie stars began wearing them that they became associated with elegance.
Why Movie Stars Really Wear Sunglasses
Wearing sunglasses indoors didn't start out as an affectation for movie stars. There was a very important reason why people in the movie business started wearing shades. They were afraid of going blind. During the early days of movies, it was difficult for movie studios to find enough light to film with the kind of clarity they required. They became tired of working out of doors where they were always at the mercy of a stray cloud. They liked working on big sound stages where they could control every detail. That's when they discovered Klieg lights.
Klieg lights were the invention of two brothers, John and Anton Kliegl. They married a carbon-arc lamp with a fresnel lens. The resulting light was so intense that it was possible for movie producers to shoot indoors with the same brilliance as a sunny day at the beach. The lights performed beautifully, and the move studios all started using them. Klieg lights had a downside, however. They hurt your eyes.
What a Movie Star Has in Common With a Welder
Arc light is similar to the flash you see when a welder is working. It's very intense, and it produces powerful rays in the UV spectrum that can't be seen but are tough on eyes. Movie stars are paid to be the most beautiful people in the world. Unfortunately, the Klieg lights gave them a condition called actinic conjunctivitis. This causes very noticeable redness and swelling in the eyes. It can lead to more serious eye problems if the exposure continues over a long period of time.
That's why movie stars began wearing sunglasses all the time. They couldn't wear them when they were actually on camera, but whenever they were on the set or nearby, they wore them constantly. Fans began to see them photographed with their sunglasses on, and they began to copy the style. Wearing sunglasses all the time became common for everyone in the film industry, and pretty soon the actors and actresses were wearing them when the cameras were rolling, too. When Audrey Hepburn wore a pair of Ray-Bans along with her evening wear in Breakfast at Tiffany's, she caused a run on the brand at every store that carried them.
Sunglasses Are Practical Luxury Eyewear
Lighting for movies and TV doesn't rely on Klieg lights anymore, but the fashion of wearing sunglasses to project an air of elegance with a bit of mystery has continued to this day. If you've just signed a three-picture deal, or you just want to look like you did, you can drop by Hoff Optometry in Venice for a quality eye exam, and then get fitted for the same brands of high end eyewear that your favorite movie stars wear.