Robert Downey Jr. sports light purple shades at the premiere of “The… (Gareth Cattermole / Getty…)
It's been a long time since wearing sunglasses was just about shading the eyes from the glare of the sun.
Just as often, that pair of Wayfarers, cat-eyes or aviators is used to create an air of inaccessibility and mystery. That's especially true among the celebrity set seeking a disguise and rock musicians trying to cultivate an anti-establishment vibe behind impenetrably inky or mirrored lenses.
But, thanks to the latest celebri-trend — custom-made, lightly tinted lenses in light neutrals or pale pops of color — sunglasses are no longer an accessory that looks cool at the beach or behind the wheel but affected indoors and elsewhere.
It's a subtle look, hard to notice at first. That is, unless the wearer is looking into the camera as Robert Downey Jr.did at the Oscars this year — showing off his gray-tinted glasses en route to the stage.
But once it's brought to your attention, tinting can be seen everywhere.
Last year, Brad Pitt had the look at the "Moneyball" premiere, wearing Barton Perreira frames with custom-tinted lenses.
At the "Captain America" premiere, it was Chris Evans in Oliver Peoples spectacles with lenses custom-dyed in a light yellow-brown tint. At the Grammy Awards in February, Steve Martin wore tortoise-shell frames with subtly rose-hued lenses.
But the king of the custom-colored sunnies seems to be Downey. His eye-catching eyewear, each pair lightly custom-washed to a different tint, includes the Oliver Peoples Sheldrake frames with custom light-wash purple lenses he wore recently to"The Avengers"premiere.
Larry Leight, co-founder and creative director of Oliver Peoples, traces the demand for medium- to lighter-tinted lenses to Jack Nicholson. The actor has made disappearing behind sunglasses — the darker the better — part of his signature look for decades. But occasionally, when the TV cameras cut to Nicholson court-side at Lakers games, he's wearing lenses so lightly colored his eyes can be seen following the action.
"He was one of the first," Leight said. "And Johnny Depp. But if you think about it, because of all the bright lights, [Martin] Scorsese and award show people like that can really use a slight tint when they're up there reading a speech. ... Look at Jimmy Iovine wearing blue-tinted lenses on 'American Idol.'"
Although custom-tinted lenses have been an option for both prescription and non-prescription eyewear for years, an Oliver Peoples representative said the brand has noticed more of the famous faces they outfit requesting lighter versions to wear to high-profile events.
"It offers them a certain level of protection from the lights and the flashes while still being able to see clearly and be seen," said Oliver Peoples' director of retail operations Chad Lissak.
In addition to choosing the density of the dye job, Lissak says clients also specify the color from an extensive lens palette, often to match a particular outfit or accessory.
Vintage-inspired blue, green and rose washes are among the most popular.
Although bespoke spectacles ("bespoketacles"?) may sound like an extravagance, one needn't be paparazzi-dodgingly wealthy to afford the option, which at Oliver Peoples starts at about $100.
And, according to the Oliver Peoples people, there's evidence that the celebri-trend trickle-down is already happening.
"Recently we have seen a rise in requests from customers who want to achieve a similar look," Lissak said.
Suddenly, Corey Hart's "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night" feels a lot less dorky than it used to.