They’re stylish, they’re timeless, and they pair with everything—if you’re wanting a foolproof way to add a cinematic spin to any ensemble, cat-eye sunglasses are, well, purr-fect.
Puns aside, cat-eye frames have pretty much always been the go-to shades for femme-fatales and fashion icons. Want to know why? Their upward slant contours the face, adding a distinctly feminine touch. This girlish silhouette, often adorned with gold accents or subtle bling, creates definition (and a little dash of drama) in a way that other frame shapes could never even dream of.
Here’s the moral of the story: we can’t all be Dior-clad CEO babes operating multi-million-dollar fashion companies from our Aruba-anchored yachts. But any average gal can cop a pair of chic cat-eye sunglasses, and let’s be honest, most days that’s close enough.
What Are Cat-eye Sunglasses?
From the oversized iterations of Hepburn’s era to the sharper styles of the 1940s, cat-eye shades have assumed many shapes throughout the decades. What every version has in common, however, is those iconic upswept tips. Similar in spirit to more masculine brow line frames, cat-eye styles are distinguished by their chic curvature and feminine profile.
Origin of Cat-eye Sunglasses
The cat-eye style was first conceived when a spirited woman wanted something and decided to make it happen. You see, up until the 1920s most glasses were boxy and ultra-masculine. Eyewear fashion was for the boys—that is, until the trail-blazing trend-setter Altina Schinasi decided to shake up the scene.
Bored to death by the drab lack of style in the male-dominated eyewear industry, Schinasi set out to invent a pair of glasses that would fulfill her dreams for a more dainty, flirtatious look. The result? A seductive, winged style which tossed aside rigid masculinity for bold feminine curves.
Schinasi, who dubbed her revolutionary style the “Harlequin,” set out to get her frames on store shelves. After being laughed out of many male optician’s offices, she finally found a supporter; a small-scale boutique in New York reluctantly agreed to adopt and market her striking new style.
You can probably already guess how the end of the story goes: the harlequin’s popularity skyrocketed. It quickly becoming a must-have accessory among housewives and celebrities alike. Alongside the glasses of that era, the harlequin’s seductive outline truly stood out. It delivered the perfect antidote to the militantly styled aviators and rigid wayfarers that had previously dominated the fashion scene.
Through the decades, the cat-eye style has taken on a wide range of names: “winged top,” “devils’ eye,” and eventually “cat-eye”—an unmistakable nod to the style’s sassy feline spirit. The rest, as they say, is history.
Types of Cat-eye Sunglasses
When it comes to cat-eye styles you can have your pick of the litter; in other words, there’s plenty to choose from. Perhaps the most iconic version is the classic oversized cat-eye made popular by silver screen starlet Audrey Hepburn in her 1961 cinematic classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This look, which features extra-dark lens tints, broad-coverage, and bold frames, is one of the most dramatic of the style’s variants.
Image Source: Everything Audrey
Other iterations on the design include vintage cat-eye styles like the Fay, which boast the glitz of oversized models but with a slightly slimmer fit and sharper brow line. Alternatively, styles like the Bree offer up a version of the cat-eye with an intentionally futuristic vibe and clean, crisp lines. These days, you can find a stunning cat-eye model in a wild range of forms: matte frames, mirrored lenses, and delicate wire accents are just a few of their most stunning features.
Image Source: Book Riot
Best Face Shapes for Cat-eye Sunglasses
Despite their brazen aura, cat-eye sunglasses are surprisingly forgiving; their upswept angles flatter almost every face shape. In fact, when it comes to feline-esque frames, it’s not a matter of if cat-eye shades look good on you—-it’s a matter of which style is going to highlight your best features.
Need a little help finding your cat-eye style soulmate? We’ve got you covered:
Cat-eye Sunglasses for Round Faces
Round faces are characterized by soft jawlines, full cheeks, and balanced proportions. When shopping around for cat-eye shades, the round-faced gal’s goal is to offset her soft features with straight, angular accents.
To add that depth and dimension, reach for the sharp-cornered frames of 1940s vintage styles or the crisp angularity of futurist models. Sunglasses like the Bree which feature a well-defined brow line will also work wonders to contrast with your face’s gentle curve.
For a little extra emphasis, round-faced ladies can seek dark frames, as bolder lines serve to narrow the face, creating a more balanced appearance. Gold detailing or a little bling can also go a long way in accentuating those defining lines.
Cat-eye sunglasses for Square Faces
Coordinating eyewear styles with face shapes is all about contrast and balance; if you’re working with a square face (a strong jaw and proportional composition), rounded shades are your match made in heaven.
When it comes to cat-eye styles, stay on the lookout for sleek oversized classics such as the Aria or daintily accented variations like the Maci. This rounded, gentler version of the cat-eye will soften your angular features, bringing balance to your visage.
Cat-eye sunglasses for Heart-Shaped Faces
One thing we love about heart-shaped faces? They look phenomenal in cat-eye frames! If you have a delicate chin, wide cheekbones, and a broad temple, you’re looking for cat-eye styles that will anchor your dainty jaw without overwhelming your forehead.
Steer clear of chunky-framed variations; lean instead towards styles that are sleek and simple. If possible, spring for a pair that rests below your brow line rather than concealing it. The perfect solution? Wire-rimmed cat-eye frames like the subtly chic Sadie. Transparent frames are also ideal, as they will effectively balance out your more delicate chin.
Cat-eye Sunglasses for Oval Faces
When it comes to face shapes, you oval-shaped gals are a wildcard. We’ll play it straight: your features can pull off just about anything. There’s tons of room to experiment, but if you’re wanting to highlight your best features, choose softer cat-eye styles like the Emma which feature mid-sized frames and a rounded brow line.
Ideally, you’ll want to find cat-eye frames that fall in line with your eyebrows in order to add depth to your elongated facade. Oversized glasses, on the other hand, risk dwarfing your features and throwing off your naturally balanced appearance.
Celebrities Who Love the Cat-eye Look
It was Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy who first brought cat-eye shades to the limelight, but they’re still a top choice for today’s celebs. Here are just a few of the A-listers known for sporting feline-esque eyewear.
Kourtney Kardashian in a pair of micro-modern cat-eye sunglasses
Image Source: the Zoe Report
Gigi Hadid sporting retro-futuristic cat-eye sunglasses
Image Source: Vogue
Zendaya in modern cat-eye sunglasses with mirrored purple lenses
Image Source: StyleBistro
Beyonce in a pair of low-key rounded cat-eye shades
Image Source: StyleBistro
Scarlett Johansson in bold oversized cat-eye frames
Image Source: Hollywood Reporter
Hailey Baldwin Bieber in ultra-chic angular cat-eye sunglasses
Image Source: BeautyPerry
How to Style Cat-eye Sunglasses
The cat-eye style’s power lies in its bold brow line and upswept tips—when selecting a pair, grab a frame color that’s sure to pop against your skin tone and really accentuate those flattering angles. For fair-skinned ladies, the bolder the better. For darker-skinned gals, go with bright neutrals or striking neon. Regardless of where you fall on the pigment spectrum, don’t be afraid to escalate the look with a deep cherry lipstick or bubble-gum pink gloss.
Even the most modern cat-eye shades hold a whisper of retro aesthetic. To bring that whisper to a shout, double-down on the vintage vibes by pairing them with 1950s and 1960s-inspired accessories like front-tying headscarves, kitten heel pumps, broad accent belts, or a string of faux pearls. Collared blouses, halter tops, shirtwaist dresses, and pleated skirts will also dish a vibe when accented with cat-eye frames.
Of course, cat-eye styles also play well with more causal ensembles; they add that perfect touch of easy-going glam to boyfriend jeans, oversized band tees, vintage denim jackets, and other understated outfits. The moral of the story? There’s really nothing the cat-eye can’t do.