The Enduring Appeal of Cat-Eye Glasses


The cat-eye sunglasses and glasses we know today are descendants from the original ‘Harlequin’ designs of Altina Schinasi in 1930’s America.

Much in the same way that Tony Gross and Graham Cutler’s dissatisfaction of the eyewear in the 1960’s led to their designs, Schinasi also found herself underwhelmed by the lacklustre frames in the optician’s window. The American designer and filmmaker vehemently rejected the idea that women in glasses were seen as plain and bookish, whereas men were “distinguished” and “well-read”.

Michelle Pfeiffer in Martin Scorcese’s Scarface, 1983

Taking inspiration from Venetian masks worn by Harlequins at a masked ball, the now ubiquitous feline silhouette was created and has since been hailed as a revolutionary moment in the eyewear industry. Fast forward almost a century, this timeless style has existed above passing eyewear trends and has been worn by some of the most recognisable faces in popular culture.

As is this case with most eyewear styles, one cat eye does not fit all. The selection of cat eye sunglasses and glasses should be approached with consideration for your face shape, haircut, colouring and lifestyle.

Left to right: the 1346 in Purple Crystal, 1350 in Black Taxi, 1241 in Russian Blue

Soft, flowing cat-eye glasses and sunglasses suit those with square or shapely faces with hair worn swept up or away. The top-heavy 1351 will balance a strong jawline and soften your features. Additionally, for square, rectangular and diamond face shapes, the 1350 (pictured above, centre) offers a more subtle route into the cat-eye.

If you want your cat eye glasses to have a little more claw than paw, your best bet is to steer away from the classic cat eye silhouette and opt for glasses or sunglasses with high, exaggerated temples such as the 1346 (pictured above, left) or the imposing 1288. Bold, structural frames like this are well suited to those with round, oval or heart shaped faces. Best demonstrated by the formidable Grace Jones, pictured right.

Although we did mention there isn’t necessarily one cat eye style for all, the classic and uninterrupted silhouette of the 1370 is a safe bet for anyone wanting to dip their toe into the proverbial pool. This classic style – available in two sizes – features a soft brow bar and edges that gently sweep up and over the cheekbones.

The best way to find cat eye glasses for you is simply to try as many on as you can. If you can get into store, our dedicated team will be delighted to walk you through our wide selection of frames. There may not be one cat eye for all, but there’s certainly a cat eye for everyone.