The Art and Psychology of Sunglasses


Credit: Wikimedia Commons - ZZigc Copyright: 2007

When I think of sunglasses, I think of "Men in Black" - the tough looking Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Josh Brolin, all in heavily tinted sunglasses ready to pounce the clueless public enemy no. 1 in sight. Perhaps, sunglasses are not as prominent as the coats and ties, but together, they help these men project a commanding presence that is solely theirs: something that cannot be learned from a self-help book or a personality workshop.

Sunglasses have been around in the country since 1929, but the concept of using a visual aid with colored or darkened lenses have been pioneered by the Chinese as early as 13th century. Chinese judges used sunglasses to obscure their eye expression while in court where they are expected to be impartial arbiters. This notion, I believe, is still true up to this day.

Technology may have magnified sunglasses health benefits, but the old-single Chinese intent remains: protect those windows to a human's rational and emotional being, the eyes. While we should credit sunglasses for optimal UV rays protection, they, for the most part, provide the wearer a sense of anonymity and privacy.

Sunglasses afford users a certain level of flexibility in unveiling their current mental and emotional state. They neutralize emotions and thought patterns that can be conveyed through the eyes like weariness, fear, insecurity, or disinterest. Because of their filter function, sunglasses can help reduce conflict in a group setting. In a tense situation, the least that you need to reveal and see are, in novelist and poet George Garrett's words, "eyes flat and vicious like the eyes of the mean dog crouched over a bone".

Heightened by the luster of anonymity, sunglasses also evoke that sense of authority "Men in Black" style. Sunglasses empower the users as they constrain others from peering on their vulnerability. There is no greater threat to self-identity than uncalculated exposure of ones liabilities. With sunglasses at work, these liabilities are incognito communicating a calculated connection.



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