Many years back, a friend of mine showed me these amazing “transformer” sunglasses he bought in a second-hand store. They were Italian made and looked retro-futuristic, with their buckling hinges enabling a ballet of twists and turns to shape shift into a folded form fitting in the palm, compact and small for the pocket when not in use.
Of course, they are the unique and classic Persol 714. Steve McQueen wore them in his hey-day, featuring in the film The Thomas Crown Affair, so they carry an air of retro-cool that I only got a glimpse of when my friend showed off his vintage purchase.
Previously to living in Paris I had visited Europe a couple times. On my trips to Paris, I was staying in the Montorgueil area and spied the transformable specs in a glasses shop nearby. I just thought they were really cool, simple as that.
In 2015 I moved to Paris, and just right around the corner from the same glasses shop where I first peeped the Persols. Again, weekly, I’d see the glasses and still think how cool they were. How kitsch-but-neat the transforming mechanism is.
Eventually after some months I got them — this brown model (the Steve McQueen Special Edition) with polarised lenses. But, through all the years of thinking about the glasses, I never tried them on. I went into the shop with a mindset to purchase, and purchase them I did regardless of how I felt about them when I tried them! Eventually, it came to pass that the glasses would sit in their case, rarely—if ever—perched on my big nose to protect my blue eyes from the sun.
Strangely, post-purchase, I didn’t like the frame colour. Too light; too close to my hair. Why didn’t I get darker ones? Maybe tortoise shell? I considered selling them, but got busy with other things and never listed them. They sat idle in my drawer, until just recently, when we decided to go out in the Wintery cold and check out Place Vendôme. There was a lot of light that day and having light blue eyes and mild light sensitivity I popped the glasses on.
It seemed after a time away that they were much much better than I remembered. The brown tinted lenses cast a warmth on the world that made Winter shrink away and cultivate a sunnier outlook on life. They’re comfortable, if a minor bit flimsy due to the extra hinges, but the extra flexibility—especially in the bridge—enables them to really wrap around and fit to one’s face (even one as narrow as mine).
Persol have a wide range of glasses (many non-transforming), and I think, had I not been so fixated on the transforming element, that I could have found a pair that were more suitable in style and colour. They have a funny character, these transforming glasses, one that I was drawn to initially and one that I didn’t crown right with choosing the frame colour, but I do like them and the warm glow they give the world when wearing them.
Sunglasses – Persol 714