Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about sunglasses. I know, I know it’s not generally a topic that requires particularly large amounts of contemplation but bear with me. One morning, before I was to depart for home on break, I found myself in the rather frustrating position of not wanting to show my hair (there was no way I would be able to wash it and make it through security at LAX in time for my flight) and my brain being in no condition to process any level of sunlight. Thus, I was left to don a neon pink snapback and shield my eyes under some Ray Bans in order to pass as any type of presentable in public. This get-up made me feel utterly absurd, however. I would never actually wear a snapback, nor would I generally find it OK to wear sunglasses indoors. I felt like I had the word ‘tool’ written all over me. However, my friend, as she helped me into the shuttle reminded me that I was going to LAX. I was blonde. If I just kept my sunglasses on, people would think I was famous.
I had a long wait for my flight, so I decided to investigate this notion. After all, I was no stranger to the LAX boredom, and the people-watching/celebrity scoping that comes with it. So I figured I’d walk around trying to avoid the eye contact of strangers, and maybe they, being unable to see what I really looked like would think I was something I simply was not. And the funny thing is: they did. People’s eyes tended to linger on me just a little longer than is typical when I strutted around the airport in my shiny, silver boots. This probably wouldn’t have happened anywhere but LAX, but the fact was that lots of people did a double take, trying to see if there was a recognizable face hiding behind those polarized lenses. They assumed that I didn’t want to be seen not because my appearance was rather unpleasant (which it was) but because I was hiding something all-too alluring.
This experience (and a TEDtalk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhHePLaMP_k by Virginia Postrel) made me think about the sunglasses, and the notion of glamour attached to them. So I looked up the word glamour in the dictionary, (or dictionary.com to be real) and found the definition to be: the quality of fascinating, alluring or attracting, especiallyby a combination of charm and good looks. But English is a living language, and definitions change. The one presented in the TEDTalk, in an older version of the dictionary were as follows: 1. A charm affecting the eye making objects appear different than they really are and 4. Any artificial interest in, or association with an object through which it appears delusively magnified or glorified
I found myself having inadvertently manipulated the notion of glamour. The people in the airport thought I adhered to the idea of glamour in the current definition. They thought I was some fascinating individual with good looks and charm. But that was only because they couldn’t see who I really was. They had an ‘artificial interest’ in me because my sunglasses had ‘delusively glorified’ me. I was not simply a person to them. I was mysterious and alluring–something to be gawked and to be intrigued by, simply because they couldn’t see that I was a nobody college student heading back to Chicago. For all they knew I could have been someone really interesting.
The old definition of glamour became the new because people have realized that mystery is undeniably intriguing. We are attracted to things we don’t understand. Karl Lagerfeld has quickly risen to the top of my list of personalities I’m obsessed with, and his signature sunglasses certainly contribute to my infatuation. The words that come out of his mouth when he does deign to do an interview are some of the more amusing things I’ve heard. He once admitted:’I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that. It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long.’ He has recognized the power granted simply by shielding ones eyes. He wants to perpetuate the notion that he is not just a man, that he is a larger-than-life personality. They always say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and by covering them up, we deny people access to what’s behind the glass.
Hat: from the lovely ladies of my sorority, Sunglasses: Ray Ban, Sweater: Aiko
Karl Photo: blendbureaux.com
Photo Cred: My Momma