What Do Sunglasses Symbolize?

What Do Sunglasses Symbolize?

Sarah Cockburn
7 minute read

What do Sunglasses Symbolize? What value do they hold psychologically?

What do sunglasses symbolize

We uncover top six psychological reasons why we wear sunglasses. 

We know that sunglasses have many health benefits which we have discussed in this previous article. However- for this article we will be focusing on the human behavioural 'effects' of wearing sunglasses. 

Psychology of wearing sunglasses

Sunglasses Make Us look Cool

As basic as it sounds, the usage of the 'smiling face with sunglasses' emoji on our whatsapp messages gives us a very clear definition of what sunglasses mean to us. 

As the Emojipedia explains- it means cool and carefree. 

It is a symbol that we understand and we do not even question, when we are sending our texts out to each other.

When we write the word 'cool' on our iphones, this symbol comes up on autocomplete-emojis. We know that when we want to use the word 'cool'- this image epitomizes everything we need it to. 

Sunglasses Emoji

Sunglasses Hide Our Emotions

Why do people wear Sunglasses for Funerals?

Why do people wear sunglasses for funerals?

Many people wear sunglasses at funerals for many reasons. Some people do not like bearing their sadness, or are wanting to be brave for other friends or family members.

If you are a bodyguard or even a police officer- you may use them deliberately to prevent people to try and manipulate your emotions. The Royal family have also used this to their advantage also. Eyes are the window to the soul- so if you want to throw people off balance (even in a subconscious way)- eyes are better hidden.

If no one knows how we feel- we are far less vulnerable. There are times in our life, where we do not want to show the world who we are. Therefore, they are a perfect mask to wear.

Sunglasses Give you Self Confidence

They can really make you feel more attractive when you are not feeling your best. They feel like you are putting on a mask, which can really change your personality in one second. 

Vanessa Brown who is a Senior Lecturer in Design and Visual Culture from Nottingham University discusses in her book 'Cool Shades. The History and Meaning of Sunglasses,' how she was decorating one day and not feeling her best and had to pop to the shops covered from head to toe in paint. As soon as she reached for her sunglasses and put them on- she felt a completely changed woman. That was one of the compelling moments she felt that it was important to write her book. 

I can completely empathise with her. 

I am the kind of woman that never leaves the house without my make up. When I need to buy some milk quickly from the local store and I am without my make up- I also put on a pair of sunglasses and when I look in the mirror I feel much more attractive.

Dr Glenn Wilson, as cited in BBC News Health explains that sunglasses can make us do things like sunbathe topless, when we wouldn't normally do such a thing. They can make us push through barriers. 

It is a commonly accepted fact that faces with symmetry are subconsciously regarded as more sexy and wearing sunglasses can correct those who have irregular symmetry (as most of us do.) 

They can also make more perfect elements of our face stand out more. For example, if you have nice lips and cheekbones- they stand out more prominently.

Sunglasses Hide Insecurity

Have you ever had a day, when you just want to be a shrinking violet? What would you do about it? Well, apart from hiding at home- I would wear some sunglasses if I wanted to venture out. 

According to the World Health Organization- approximately 280 million people in the world have depression. This arise from a hereditary perspective, life circumstance such as bereavement or illness or through a psychological trauma- such as abuse.

Sunglasses can hide a plethora of insecurities for the world to see. 

Sunglasses Status/ Power

Sunglasses can really give a person status. First US Lady in the 60's, Jackie Onassis really demonstrated that with her usage of them. She became a style icon. Her style is one that we haven't forgotten either through the years and is repeatedly replicated. 

Jackie Kennedy

© Harpers Bazaar 

The sunglasses gave her presence without giving much away about her personal feelings. 

We also associate authority with Aviator sunglasses as they were originally designed for pilots. For some reason for me and many others, when I see a man wear these I often find they look very apppealing. I cannot pinpoint whether it's the balance of symmetry they give, the pilot connotation or the mystery behind them. I think it is all of those factors.

Oversized sunglasses seem to be used as a status symbol and we see this the most with celebrities since the 1960's. Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn would wear them to keep their eyes safe from flashing paparazzi bulbs. Now Other Celebrities such as Lady Gaga- wear them to present them as style choices, due to the opulent dramatic styles of them. 

The styles she wears shows she is a celebrity. Both her and Elton John can be a bit more 'over the top,' because of their status. 

lady gaga and elton john

                                                              ©Elton john 2005 Getty Images. © Capital FM

Sex Appeal

There is something incredibly alluring about not knowing if someone likes you or not. It is like they are playing hard to get. Maybe they are and that is what we find so alluring about them. 

But we feel the exact opposite sometimes when someone is too direct.

Some women (not all mind)- like the stereotype of the 'bad boy.' When we see films like the Lost Boys, where the vampires during the day are wearing sunglasses or even Arnold swarzenegger in the Terminator films- they become alluring. 

Swarzenegger and Lost Boys

© The Terminator Wikipedia

© Lost Boys (HMV)

In top Gun and Top Gun Maverick, all the cast are wearing sunglasses as pilots and I have to say, they all have a very sexy appeal about them. There is mystery, there is power and they all have their best features on show when their sunglasses are worn as I discuss in a separate article

Top Gun Maverick

©Paramount Pictures

Final Thought: there are lots of psychological motives for wearing sunglasses which are unconscious. Without doubt, they are seen as cool- as demonstrated with the frequent use of the sunglasses emoji. They hide our emotions- which can be a conscious or unconscious act. They give you self confidence and freedom to sometimes act against our personas. They hide our insecurities and our pain. They can help us uphold more power either proffessionally or just generally in life. They can give us sex appeal and also sexual freedom to explore a more wild part of ourselves.

I certainly won't be giving up my sunglasses anytime soon!! Dont forget your eye health either. This article explains all the health advantages to wearing sunglasses and the UV400 and CE levels you should wear 

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