The right pair of shades can be transformative: You can channel mystery with Audrey Hepburn–esque frames, adventure with aviators and whimsy with some quirky cat-eyes. But finding the perfect style for you—and your face shape—isn’t always easy. You can find plenty of cheap sunglasses at department stores and some of the best shops in NYC, but if you want the best sunglasses that will last you a lifetime, you have to hit up the pros. We rounded up some independent shop’s and chains that know a thing or two about sunnies, so you’ll never feel the painful glare of sun reflecting off the shiniest and most beautiful buildings in NYC again.
As evidenced by the way proprietors Oleg Rabinovich and Julio Santiago treat their inventory like objets d’art—only 100 or so frames ($375–$5,000) are displayed on illuminated shelves at a time—this well-curated space is for the serious sunglass collector. The stock changes every two months and includes custom-made buffalo-horn rims and avant-garde shapes.
Eyewear designer Selima Salaun’s spacious East Village shop stocks her full range of frames, alongside a collection of vintage designer clothes, accessories and jewelry. Nostalgic styles, including square and curvy cat-eye 1950s-inspired shapes and 1970s-vibe large rounded frames, come in a variety of eye-catching color combinations, and you can have your prescription filled on-site.
Don’t let the unassuming storefront fool you: Veteran optician Michael Stoff’s quaint shop has been framing faces for more than 17 years, and his informative staff won’t rest until you’ve found the perfect pair. The walls and glass cases are jam-packed with offbeat shades from obscure European brands like Theo, Face à Face and Anne et Valentin. Prices start around $100.
Whether you’re channeling Brigitte Bardot or Benjamin Franklin, there’s a pair of sunnies to fit your mood at this treasure trove, which carries more than 40,000 vintage specs unearthed at flea markets and from opticians’ dead stock ($40 to $3,000). Chests of drawers display antique frames dating as far back as the late 1800s, and are organized by style and era. If those pince-nez or aviator sunglasses are looking a bit too dated for your taste, the staff will happily reshape or bejewel them with Swarovski crystals. Fanny’s also vends such vintage items as ladies’ pillbox hats and suspenders for lads looking to channel the 1940s (or maybe just Larry King).
While heavy on the tortoiseshell and horn-rimmed variety, the architectural frames ($180–$400) displayed on frosted glass at this loftlike industrial space still manage to be impossibly forward and hip. Hand-carved Japanese brands like Spivvy and Lazy Red come with tinted lenses, and are so mod you’ll want to wear them everywhere, even on the subway. But please, don’t.
Ever since Hyman Moscot started selling specs from a pushcart on Orchard Street in 1899, this family-run institution has been the most recognizable name in New York eyewear. Now run by fourth-generation brothers, the three sleek shops sell well-known labels, as well as their own two collections: vintage-inspired Moscot Originals and Moscot Spirit, the more modern line ($199–$249).
The “online members' club for sunglass lovers” opened a showroom in Williamsburg a few years ago and boasts a collection of over 500 unique styles for men and women. Grab popular brands such as Andy Wolf and Sunday Somewhere, and take advantage of this joint’s large stock of cool, printed frames. We’re currently eyeing the printed specs from in-house name Blood and Tears ($220) and glasses by Retrosuperfuture.
This Berlin import is a Crosby Street newcomer favored among celebs such as Sarah Jessica Parker. Judging by the no-nonsense all-white decor, it’s obvious that the modern frames are the brand’s primary focus here (especially since its innovative designs are award-winning). Although purchasing a pair of specs might make a dent in your bank account, the unisex styles (most run $300–$495) are so bang-on-trend it’s worth a splurge.
This brand has a reputation for offering limited-edition, luxury specs at a price that won’t make you cringe—a pair of statement-making nonprescription sunglasses will only run you $99. And though all three locations carry an array of contemporary, vintage and modern styles, we’re big fans of the Mondo collection, which is all about avant-garde shapes like the bold and chunky ’60s-inspired glasses.
If you dig retro-style sun shields but the idea of sporting anything pre-worn on your face grosses you out, head to this friendly neighborhood shop, which offers roughly 6,000 pristine vintage frames spanning from the ’60s to the ’80s, from labels like Balenciaga and Dior. You won’t find Oakleys here—owners Jordan Silver and Erik Sacher refuse to sell licensed brands—but you can pick up indie European designers such as London’s Anglo American, plus the duo’s own in-house line ($295–$1,200).
Vintage specs are a huge trend, and since each piece of eyewear designed by this NYC brand is inspired by the 1920s, you’ll find every retro frame imaginable (all shades cost $129, plus shipping). Beyoncé is particularly partial to the cat-eye trend (yes, we creep on her Instagram like everyone else, too), so you should probably scoop up a pair, like, now.
The popular eyewear e-tailer now has three outposts in the city, so there’s absolutely no reason to ever go shades-less. Both men and women can shop for sunglasses and prescription frames ($95–$195, includes lenses), such as traditional acetate with square or round lenses ($95 each) and classic aviator sunnies ($145). For those seeking hip prescription specs, try out bookish opticals and multicolor versions ($95 each), both offering UV protection. If your prescription is out of date, make an appointment ($50) with the in-store optometrist.