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On your bike: how high fashion adopted cycling sunglasses

Its not often you see Kim Kardashian, Princess Anne and Bella Hadid wearing the same accessories, but this year oversized performance shades are suddenly everywhere

Cyclings sartorial reinvention is nothing new. Brands such as Rapha, CHPT3, Pas Normal Studios, Isadore and MAAP have offered style-conscious cyclists an alternative to poorly fitted fluro gear for a decade. The fashion world has paid attention too, with Moschino taking cycling style to the catwalk in 2015, and caps becoming essential wear for Williamsburgs hipsters. But recently, a specific piece of cycling apparel has become co-opted by the fashion crowd: sunglasses.

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A model for Vetements at Paris fashion week in June 2018. Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

At mens fashion week last month in Paris, Bella Hadid, Rita Ora and Kim Kardashian were spotted in high-end performance sunglasses: Hadid in Heron Preston x Nike Visions, Ora in Oakley Jawbreakers (as worn by Mark Cavendish) and Kardashian in Alpinas. Vetements one of the most influential brands in the world put them on models on the catwalk. Stella McCartney makes Turbo Wrap sunglasses that would be at home on Mont Ventoux. American Vogue has even started running editorials on them.

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Rita Ora at the Isle of Wight festival in June 2018. Photograph: Dan Reid/Rex/Shutterstock

Its bizarre, says cycling journalist Stuart Clapp, who edits Rouleurs apparel section. Princess Anne wore some to the royal wedding. Its like a 90s throwback thing. In cycling terms, you wear cycling sunglasses when youre on the bike, but no one wants to wear them off it. Not even when youre inthe cafe.

But perhaps its not that strange. Brands such as Off-White have been designing cycling shorts for a while and, as the Guardians fashion editor Hannah Marriott tells me, they go with the ironic ugly trainer vibe permeating fashion. Theyve never really been fashionable before so they make early adopters feel a bit clever on Instagram.

Oakley
Oakley Flight Jacket sunglasses, 165.99.

Cycling sunglasses have had some distinct eras. In the early pre-war years, riders would don the kind of goggles you would expect to see in a cockpit rather than in the peloton. In the 50s and 60s, innovators such as Fausto Coppi and Britains most stylish cyclist, Tom Simpson, began wearing aviators. But it was the 80s and the introduction of Oakley that broke the mould.

The story goes that when American pro-cyclist Greg LeMond wanted a pair of performance glasses, Oakley, until then mostly known as a motocross brand, delivered the Factory Pilots: huge yet minimalist wraparound glasses, which provided protection from flies and grit flicked up from the road, as well as the sun. Their ungainly aesthetic caused ripples of laughter in the peloton at first, but became must-haves among pros soon after.

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