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A History of White Sunglasses: From Kurt Cobain to Jackie O

Jamie Mendiola

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Jamie Mendiola

Updated: 26 February 2024 •  
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When it comes to sunglasses, black or brown frames have been the go-to colors for many years.
 
However, there’s another color that’s been embraced by pop icons and trendsetters – white.
 
White sunglasses are pretty common in the fashion world and throughout pop culture history.
 
In this article, let’s take a journey through time and explore the history of white sunglasses, as well as how you can rock them your way.

What’s the big deal about white sunglasses?

audrey hepburn wears white sunglasses

Audrey Hepburn was one of the earliest pop culture icons to wear (and popularize) white sunglasses. Source: Vogue

 
To understand how white sunglasses evolved into the IT accessories they are today, we need to go back to the 1920s.
 
Since its mass production began in the Roaring Twenties, sunnies have become a fashion statement for many people.
 
In the 1930s, white sunglasses had started to appear in magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
 
One of the earliest and most memorable examples of white sunglasses in pop culture is Audrey Hepburn’s pair in the film ‘How to Steal a Million’ in 1966.
 
By the time the 1970s rolled around, white sunnies were already a classic choice for any style enthusiast.
 

1. Audrey Hepburn’s white cat eye sunglasses

audrey hepburn wears white sunglasses while driving a red car in how to steal a million

Audrey Hepburn in her classic, all-white getup in the movie, ‘How to Steal a Million’. Source: Classiq Journal

 

If you want to talk about chic retro fashion, you can’t leave out Audrey Hepburn and her white cat-eye frames.
 
Check out the film ‘How to Steal a Million,’ and you’ll know exactly what we mean.
 
Paired with an all-white ensemble from head to toe, Audrey Hepburn’s white sunglasses made a lasting impression.
 
It added a necessary touch of glamor to her character and sparked a new trend.
 

 

2. Jackie O’s big and bold white sunglasses

jackie o oversized gradient white sunglasses in a tournament 1976

Jackie O wears oversized gradient white sunglasses at a tournament in 1976. Source: W Magazine

 

Another style icon from the 1960s that popularized white sunglasses is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a.k.a. Jackie O.
 
She served as the First Lady of the United States alongside her husband, President John F. Kennedy.
 
Jackie O was well known for her classic and sophisticated sense of style.
 
She gravitated towards monochromatic A-line dresses, pillbox hats, and of course, her favorite white sunglasses.
 
All of these and more became part of her signature style.
 
To get her look, get white frames that are oversized with large lenses that provide maximum protection from the sun.
 
The bigger the frames, the better.
 
In terms of shapes, Jackie O was known to experiment with all kinds, ranging from round to geometric.
 

 

3. Princess Diana wore white aviator sunnies

princess diana wears white aviator sunglasses in abu dhabi

Princess Diana in Abu Dhabi elevates white aviator sunglasses with a pair of pearl earrings and a necklace. Source: Newsweek

 

Even royalty isn’t immune to the appeal of white sunglasses, as Princess Diana of Wales proved here.
 
Aside from her philanthropic causes, the late princess was revered for her impeccable taste in fashion.
 
One of her favorites was her white aviators, which she wore to multiple events.
 
From a simple polo match to an official visit to Abu Dhabi, the princess was frequently spotted with the same pair to protect her eyes from UV rays in chic fashion.
 
A departure from the more typical black aviators that were popular at the time, they nonetheless cemented the late Princess of Wales’s status as a style icon.
 
Now, you can get her iconic look for less with Mouqy’s alternatives.
 

 

4. Every rebel rocks the whites with Kurt Cobain

kurt cobain wears white oval sunglasses in a photoshoot

Kurt Cobain rocking oval white sunnies in one of the last photo shoots he did prior to his untimely death in 1994. Source: British GQ

 

Aside from old Hollywood stars and literal royalty, white sunglasses were a must-have accessory for rock stars and rebels too.
 
Case in point, the one and only Kurt Cobain.
 

The Nirvana frontman was at the forefront of the grunge scene in the 1990s.
 
In the photoshoot above, he embodies the aesthetic in a leopard print coat worn over a graphic tee and jeans and naturally, white sunglasses.
 
While the look may sound mismatched, Kurt’s individuality somehow makes everything work.
 
If anything, the oversized oval white sunnies only added to the outfit’s edginess.

 

 

5. Geeky in white shades like young Justin Bieber

justin bieber wears white sunglasses

Young Justin Bieber flaunting white frames with his casual, laid-back style. Source: Pinterest

 
Here’s the thing: just because you’re a studious geek, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your sense of style.
 
You can integrate both sides of you into your outfits, like how Justin Bieber does.
 
The Canadian musician rose to meteoric fame as a teenage heartthrob and pop sensation, and was often seen with geeky chic white frames that were in trend in the 2010s.
 
He usually paired them with hoodies, sneakers, and baseball caps, creating a laid-back and casual look that resonated well with his young fanbase.
 

 

6. Rihanna chills in white sunnies

rihanna wears white sunglasses for met gala

Rihanna made her mark on this year’s Met Gala in white frames embellished with oversized faux lashes to go with er all-white ensemble. Source: People

 

Fast forward to the present, white sunnies are still making waves in fashion and showbiz. Singer, makeup mogul, and all-round icon Rihanna is the latest to jump on the bandwagon.
 
Known for her bold and edgy fashion choices, the billionaire has been spotted in various styles of white sunnies at various points in her career.
 
The latest notable moment comes from her appearance at the 2023 Met Gala, where she sported rectangle frames embellished with oversized faux lashes.
 
As always, RiRi makes a compelling case for stepping out of your comfort zone, fashion-wise.
 

 

How to choose the perfect white frames for yourself

After all, there are also many styles to choose from.
 
So, here are a few simple tips on how to choose the right pair for you.
 

Consider face shape

 
Just like with any other type of sunglasses, you should go for a pair of frames that complement your face shape.
 
A general rule of thumb is that if you have soft facial features, you should add structure to them with square or rectangular frames.
 
Meanwhile, if you have strong, angular features, balance them out with soft, rounded frames.
 

Decide on color and materials

 
Remember that white sunglasses come in a wide variety of materials. You can choose from metal, plastic, acetate, and more.
 
Make sure to choose one that’s durable enough for your lifestyle.
 
The color white can also vary in shade, from bright white to off-white or cream.
 
So, have a look at your options and select a shade of white that works well with your skin tone.
 

Match your wardrobe

 
If you want a full monochromatic look, adding more white pieces to your wardrobe can do the trick.
 
However, white frames can also match and contrast well with other colors, such as pastel and neutral shades.
 

Try them on

 
Last, but not the least, the best way to know if a pair of white sunglasses is perfect for you is to try them on.
 
Mouqy has a virtual try-on tool that you can use for free. With this, you can see how different frames look on your face before making a purchase.
 

Create your signature look with white sunglasses

White sunglasses might not be a common choice for many people, it’s undeniable that they’ve made a permanent mark on the world of fashion and pop culture.
 
From iconic celebrities like Audrey Hepburn to rock stars like Kurt Cobain, white frames have been embraced and worn in so many ways by movie stars and rebels alike.
 
So, why not try them for yourself?
 
Once you’ve got that perfect pair of white sunglasses that complements your signature style, you’re bound to stand out from the crowd.

Jamie Mendiola
Jamie is a writer and non-profit volunteer advocating for mental health. When not typing up a storm at work, you'll find her binge-watching Netflix or meditating like Yoda.

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