Tom Ford: The new King of Sunglasses
Sunglasses fashion is more exciting than ever, making it impossible to ignore — and why would you want to? Some brands, like Ray-Ban, specialise in eyewear, so we are spoilt for choice, and other larger fashion brands merely dabble in sunglasses and eyewear. Tom Ford, however, is one of the designers who takes eyewear very seriously, pumping out dozens of new eyewear designs each season. This blog post will take a look at Ford’s fashion career, so that we can better understand his gift for eyewear design. Then we will look at the various incredible sunglasses styles coming from the Tom Ford studios!
A Brief History of Tom Ford
Tom Ford is a lot older than he looks (he’s 56!) and he’s been in the fashion industry for decades. He founded his own luxury brand in 2006 and it was an instant success. But this success was only due to Ford’s extensive experience in the fashion industry prior to this… Ford’s first fashion-related job was in a low-down PR position in Chloé, and he concealed the nature of this job, and that his degree was in architecture, from designer Cathy Hardwick when he interviewed for a design assistant role in her sportswear company. Ford charmed his way into the role with no experience and quickly learned that he was a natural.
Tom Ford later worked at Perry Ellis, alongside Marc Jacobs before he realised that American fashion held little allure for him. In a later, now-famous, interview with The New York Times, Ford said, “If I was ever going to become a good designer, I had to leave America. My own culture was inhibiting me. Too much style in America is tacky. It’s looked down upon to be too stylish. Europeans, however, appreciate style.” It’s no surprise, then, that Ford applied for a designer role at Gucci…
Gucci in the late 80s was vastly different to the huge brand we know today. It was failing miserably and it was desperately looking for some way to resuscitate itself. In 1990, Ford was hired as a vital part of the women’s ready-to-wear design team. Ford packed up his belongings and moved his entire life to Milan. No one could fault his dedication or ambition. Ford’s progression through Gucci was absolutely meteoric, despite the fact that he regularly clashed with Maurizio Gucci, the company’s chairman. It all changed when Ford was made Creative Director in 1994…
The role of creative director is the most important part of any fashion house, so it was a huge upset when this young American was given the position in 1994. Ford had been putting in a lot of hard work behind the scenes, however, and many in Gucci felt that he’d more than earned the position. Ford proved himself over the next 12 years as Gucci’s Creative Director, helping turn the brand around. He stayed true to the brand’s Italian identity, but his American background no doubt helped shake things up.
Gucci went from a failing label to one of the biggest in the world. In fact, Gucci Group was doing so well that it acquired Yves Saint Laurent in 1999. When this happened, Ford was also given the Creative Director job there as well! So, it was the experience of working as the Creative Director of a top Parisian and Milanese fashion house that empowered Ford to step out on his own in 2006, creating his own label. Ford’s style borrows heavily from European influences, but there is something undeniably American when it comes to some of his eyewear forms. Gucci and YSL both have huge eyewear collections too, so it was perhaps their influence that encouraged Ford to make eyewear a lynchpin of his fashion label.
Now, let’s look at several different Tom Ford sunglasses designs, discussing what styles and face shapes they complement best.
Tom Ford has an obvious penchant for anything vintage — especially anything with a 40s or 50s Art Deco style. This is why Ford was one of the first designers to embrace and pioneer the resurgence of round sunglasses we’ve seen over the last two or three years. Ford takes soft nudes and peachy tones and pairs them with dark greys and blacks. He also plays with the Havana (used to be called tortoiseshell) pattern, modernising it with thin, elegant designs. Round sunglasses suit people with square, rectangular, and otherwise angular faces because it helps balance out their harsher angles.
Tom Ford has made a plethora of clever interpretations of the classic square sunglasses style. Sometimes he rounds the edges and gives them a double metal bridge, and sometimes he squishes the square a little and makes the bridge stretch along the brow instead of the nose. Ford’s approach to square sunglasses is similar to his approach to round sunglasses: he takes classic, retro styles and reinvents them. The result feels vaguely modern yet vintage, but in truth, it feels more like Ford has invented something that should have existed in the 50s, as though the design is part of some alternative timeline. The effect is timeless and will not be lost or outdated by changing fashions. Square sunglasses suit people with round, oval, and oblong faces, as they add definition to their softer features.
Ford’s retro focus has inevitably lead him to experiment with Ray-Ban’s Clubmaster and Wayfarer (more on this next) styles. The browline style (the name given to any Clubmaster style not officially from Ray-Ban) has an instant retro feel that lends itself perfectly to Ford’s aesthetic. Ford doubles down on the retro feel with Havana patterns and round and square rims. His darker browline styles have an elegant, vaguely Art Deco influence that can’t be found in any other eyewear designer. Browline sunglasses suit most face shapes, but they are especially flattering on people with pointy chins, as they draw attention up to the top of your face, balancing your features a little.
The Aviator style is unquestionably, Ray-Ban’s, but many designers over the years have been inspired by it and have tried to change it in subtle ways. Ford’s penchant for vintage styles drew him, inevitably, to the Aviator style and his love for all-things European has flavoured his approach to this classic American style. Ford gets very playful when he designs Aviator-style sunglasses; he knowingly subverts this classic style by removing or changing a key element, such as the double bridge, the metal frame, or the standard reverse teardrop shape of the rims. Ford’s Aviator-style sunglasses don’t feel quite as retro as many of the other sunglasses in his eyewear collection. Aviator-style sunglasses suit everyone, but beware that they tend to be a little bigger than most other styles, so you may like to avoid them if you don’t look good in larger frames.
Ford is at his most playful when he’s designing cat-eye sunglasses. Ford has always preferred women’s fashion and there is nothing quite a feminine in the eyewear world than a sleek pair of cat-eye sunglasses. Ford occasionally designs a standard, sophisticated pair of cat-eye sunglasses, but he seems to prefer to experiment with the form, creating big, ostentatious designs that really make a statement. Look for bold shapes, thick frames, and graduated colourful lenses. Cat-eye sunglasses suit anyone with a feminine aesthetic, but they’re especially flattering for people with heart- or diamond-shaped faces as they help balance out their features.
That’s everything for this blog post! Tom Ford has had an incredible fashion career and is showing no signs of slowing down, so a focused look at his sunglasses offering seemed long overdue. Tom Ford has a truly staggering range of sunglasses to choose from, so there’s something for all styles and face shapes. Happy shopping!