Obviously people were buying sunglasses from gas stations well before stylist Alexis Badiyi and I spotted a certain pair on a pit stop at a Bolla mid–road trip this summer. Balenciaga sent a pair of moth-eyed acetate frames down the runway in March, and ever since, I’ve seen the silhouette — a brandless, wraparound style that lands somewhere between speed-demon monster-trucker and ’00s “It” girl — iterated ad nauseam between Orchard Street and Fort Greene Park. The Bolla pair were exactly the type I’d been looking for — not too gimmicky, not too generic, with a matte-black brow bar and hyper-glossy lenses that slightly curved around the face. The platonic ideal of the genre.
Alexis bought them; I didn’t. I regretted it almost immediately — especially after she shared the glasses in Clemence Pole’s Passerby Discord, a server where fashion-obsessives share the best things they’ve bought recently. The members, who I find to be especially hard to impress, loved them — seemingly more than they did recommendations for (more expensive) pairs from Jacques Marie Mages, Port Tanger, and Kuboraum.
Not eager to return to the Mobil station in Hempstead, I started searching online. I wanted a pair, like the Bollas, that leaned sleek and sporty — not some circular Lennon specs, run-of-the-mill Wayfarers, or skinny Gen-Z micro-frames. My ideal frames would take up some serious real estate on the nose bridge; the wider the better. And while extraneous hardware was not encouraged, pretty much any color combination or iridescent veneer is a plus in a pair of gas-station glasses.
The first pair that effectively fit the criteria was a pair of plasticky, logo-less sunglasses I bought from the Danish brand Hanrej, one of a growing number of tiny brands filling in the space between 7-Eleven frames and the luxury versions they inspire. During Stockholm Fashion Week, Paper’s Justin Moran told me twice that he was really into them, describing them as being “like the perfect gas-station sunglasses.” He said he preferred them to the Pradas he was wearing then told me about a similar pair he owned from Rose in Good Faith. (They make their weightless, thin-stemmed sunglasses out of recycled dildos — he wore his the next day to a garden-brunch fashion show.)
Meanwhile, I was seeing these things everywhere. The head of content at SSENSE, Thom Bettridge, posts pictures of himself in performance Oakleys — the gold standard for high-end gas station sunglasses — constantly. DJ Amrit named a pair of Lexxolas as her favorite thing she wore during New York Fashion Week in a roundup for my newsletter. “The red colorway makes me feel like I picked them up at a gas station somewhere along the way on a road trip with a really fun 2000s soundtrack,” she told me. Gemsun’s Mona Esser shared with me that she sourced her — startlingly vast — collection from gas stations in upstate New York and Bodrum, Turkey.
It was inevitable that gas-station sunglasses would come back around at exactly this moment — our steady, nostalgic march through fashion history has brought us back to 2002, when Chanel, Versace, and Michael Kors all sent versions of the style down their runways, Spiderman and his notably shaped winged eyes hit theaters, and Oakley glasses looked … exactly the same. The cringe, dirtbag aughts are back, and they look great.
The thing about gas-station sunglasses and any other lowbrow trend seized on by fashion people is that it’s basically a gag. The general vibe is, I’ll wear these, but I also have a pair of Bottegas at home. The thing here, though — unlike when various other “common” items go couture — is that the original is exactly as good every single time. My Hanrej’s are nice and probably sturdier, but I can’t say I like them aesthetically much more than Alexis’s Bollas. Gas may not be cheap right now, but actually good gas-station sunglasses sure are.
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