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Not to be shady but these sunglasses are better than yours

Out-there eyewear.
Vancouver makeup artist Jasmine Hoffman wears custom G Gal Designs sunglasses.

Summer's most essential accessory isn't the sandal or the sun hat. It isn't even the swimsuit. It's the sunglasses.

As a person with light-coloured eyes, I spend most of my time squinting in the sunlight, but it wasn't until I noticed wrinkles appearing around my eyes, that I got serious about sunglasses. They serve just as much of a function as a hat or sunscreen when it comes to protecting yourself from the elements but they also provide a great opportunity for self-expression and fun.

I didn't pay attention to sunglasses the same way I did my purse, my jewellery, or my shoes when it came to putting together an outfit, which is one of the reasons they were always an afterthought (too often forgotten altogether). The traditional Ray-Bans just didn't speak to me, nor did many of the other typical designs on the market. It wasn't until I shifted my thinking to approach sunglasses the way I would any other fashion piece, with a sense of whimsy and exuberance, that it totally changed the game for me and rescued my poor squinting eyes in the process.

I like to pick a bag or a shoe with a couture element that becomes the focal point of an outfit, one that I can invest in and wear multiple different ways without getting bored. I think sunglasses should be approached the same way. 

Here are a few statement-making sunglasses to dress up your face:

G Gal Designs

When I say statement-making eyewear, I mean it. Ciara Mhic Cathmhaoil, owner of the handmade sunglasses shop G Gal Designs makes amazing custom-designed shades, many with nostalgic alphabet beads spelling out cheeky phrases (my personal favourite are the "f*ck off" glasses). She also has a collection of ready-to-go glasses that are bold and playful and come in round or heart cat-eye shapes. The wilder options are great for Vegas vacations or music festivals and her bridal collection makes for fun bachelorette and honeymoon accessories. But most are just great for everyday wear to add a pop of personality. 

Black Iris Eyewear

Sunglasses from this Vancouver designer are sure to turn heads. Named one of the top six designers to watch by Forbes at Tokyo Fashion Week and one of the best looks of Toronto Fashion Week by Elle Canada, Black Iris Eyewear resembles facial jewellery more so than glasses. Designer, stylist, and artist Zoe Olsson has partnered with multiple fashion designers who have used her lenses to complete their looks on the runway. The frames are jewel-encrusted but it's the metal work and detailing Olsson adds that make them more interesting and sophisticated than your average bedazzled accessory. She also has an initiative called Introspection where people can fill out a form and submit their social media and she will create a design proposal for a pair of custom glasses.

ShadeShaks

Remember back in the early 2000s when sunglasses were heartshaped and tinted purple and pink? Well, ShadeSkaks on Etsy is bringing that trend back and adding even more cool shapes and colours like butterfly wings and red flame-shaped lenses. All the glasses are 100 per cent UV Protected for both UVA and UVB rays but some of them, like the dragonfly fairy wing glasses, don't have optimal visibility so keep that in mind if you are planning to wear them while driving. Designs that don't have any detail on the actual lens should be fine though.