“They have already elicited several ‘you look great’ responses”

Black Eyewear creates cool 1950s-esque sunglasses – and excels in finding a flattering fit

Fashion designer Rita Colson in Black Eyewear Alice sunglasses in Pastel Lilac, £187
Fashion designer Rita Colson in Black Eyewear Alice sunglasses in Pastel Lilac, £187

It’s surprisingly difficult to find sunglasses that are “just right” – by which I mean flattering, well made and not overwhelming, but with a hint of glamour. There are lots of independent eyewear brands, but I tend to find their frames either interesting but too extreme for daily wear, or cool but overly plain. I also wanted prescription lenses, so I could enjoy reading in bright sunshine, which narrowed the field further. 

From top: Black Eyewear Jamal, Tina, Aretha and Moore sunglasses, from £177
From top: Black Eyewear Jamal, Tina, Aretha and Moore sunglasses, from £177

The answer came from a friend, who suggested I visit Robert Roope’s small shop in Goodge Street. An optician for decades, Roope started Black Eyewear 14 years ago with six frames – all black – inspired by the “timeless style” of the 1950s. Browsing his designs named after jazz musicians and contemporary artists of the era – and now available in a vast choice of colours – I found much to admire. I quite fancied a touch of the fashionable cat’s eye – the Alice style (£187), for example – and picked out a number of soft, roundish but not circular shapes that I thought would suit my smallish, slightly rectangular face. 

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Help and advice – either from Roope, who is there several days a week, or one of his highly trained assistants – is all part and parcel of the Black Eyewear experience, along with the gentle jazz soundtrack. As I tried on my selection with Roope, his silent study of my face was somewhat disconcerting. With a “can do better” smile, he asked me to try a style I’d picked for its warm, tan tortoiseshell shade but rejected for its squarer shape – not something I’ve worn since an ill-advised pairing with large, white, square-ish sunglasses many years ago. The effect of the Moore frames (£187) on me was surprisingly pleasing. They are slightly smaller than my usual choices, yet not anonymously so. The newish design, named after sculptor Henry Moore, has a distinctly midcentury-modern feel, with a gently curved rectangular frame and clever, slanted-in sides that lighten the shape and add a suggestion of uptick at the outer eye. 

Black Eyewear Moore sunglasses in Blond, £187
Black Eyewear Moore sunglasses in Blond, £187

They are a perfect fit for my face and lenses (£57-£87) for my prescription were added in a few days at Black Eyewear’s second branch, in St Albans. They have already elicited several “you look great” responses, rather than “what amazing sunglasses” – and that is exactly what I was after.

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