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The Enigmatic Use Of Sunglasses In Music Videos

"We're 106 miles to Chicago. We've got a full gas tank, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses."

"Hit it."

One of the most memorable lines from the classic The Blues Brothers drives home the link between musicians and sunglasses; indeed, in the movie, Jake and Elwood are rarely seen without them. John Lennon was often around his New York home in his iconic round lenses, while Sir Elton John's esoteric sunglasses are always in demand at rock memorabilia auctions. His recent retirement from touring should only push prices even higher.

The image of the cool, rebel musician wearing shades intensified when PR moved from press shots and live shows to music videos. In the first video MTV ever aired, Buggles' Video Killed The Radio Star, singer Trevor Horn is bedecked in outsized neo-futurist lenses for the duration.

Sunglasses make a memorable visual statement. It's impossible to think of Top Gun without Tom Cruise's Ray-Ban Aviators. And many musicians have linked that optical iconography to their sonic output in their videos. So, without further ado, let's look at four of the best.

The Jesus & Mary Chain - Snakedriver

Despite hailing from the decidedly un-sunny climes of East Kilbride, Scotland - and their arguably biggest song being Happy When It Rains - the Reid brothers are rarely seen without shades on. And they are utilitarian.

When their early gigs in the mid-1980s oftentimes descended into mini-riots, sunglasses shielded their eyes from beer and bottles being hurled stewards. Here, Jim's Clubmaster-style half-rims are protection from the Almeria sun as the scenery's scorched earth tracks the song's searing guitar fuzz.

Future - Jumpin On A Jet

In fashion, the 90s are back. Cargo pants and cardigans are on catwalks in 2023. Accessories are back with a bang, too – including sunglasses. Sporting brand Oakley came off the ski slopes and into the new extreme sports of the 1990s when their goggles were worn by mountain bikers like John Tomac and snowboarders like Jason Ford. Nowadays, Action Bronson can often be spotted in classic Frogskins and M-Frames. Future stayed one step ahead of the trend by sporting Oakley Flight Deck ski goggles in his Jumpin On A Jet video back in 2019.

Run DMC - Pause

Pick a video by another Soundcloud rapper, and you'll likely see stacks of bills surrounding them and often being thrown around like confetti. Back in the 1980s in NYC, such ostentatious displays of wealth would be frowned upon, not least because of the likelihood of being relieved of said money.

While Run DMC was certainly fashion-conscious, it was the apparel of the streets – see My Adidas as the perfect benchmark. However, Darryl 'DMC' McDaniels also had his eye on the high-end, frequently sporting Cazal 607 sunglasses. His wearing of them in the video for 'Pause' is a subtle nod to the positive, enriching message of the song. Do good things, and good things may come to you.

Brie Stoner - Loved Me Like A Weapon

The Spanish-raised Michigan songstress wears the same pair of shades to two very different effects in her 2023 video. She is sporting a pair of oversized round frames in the opening frames, similar to Gucci's classic model. She's in a penthouse, and we seem to be in for a tale of luxury.

However, as the song progresses, it becomes clear this is the narrative of someone hurting. Playing the character of an assassin, her garb of long coat, beret, and oversized shades seems as much a defense of her soul as an anonymization of her physicality. We interviewed Brie upon the single's release, although if you're conscious of spoilers, watch the video before reading the feature.

The digital age means we're closer to artists' lives than ever. We can check their socials to see what they're recording, where they're going, and sometimes even what they're eating. The enigmatic cool a pair of sunglasses provides - just that little air of mystery hasn't dulled in decades. It's not about to start now.


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