The rules of etiquette dictate that you are not supposed to wear sunglasses indoors. Furthermore, you're not supposed to wear them during face-to-face conversations unless you have a legitimate, medical reason for it. So what is it with rock stars and their sunglasses? Why do some of the world's biggest names in music insist on wearing sunglasses whenever they are in the public eye? There are lots of reasons.
Wearing sunglasses at all times almost seems like a rite of passage in the world of professional music. Whether the rest of society approves or not, doing so is part of a unique world a lot of people have aspired to but very few have actually achieved. So with that in mind, let's take a look at a few things that might explain the phenomena of rock stars and their sunglasses.
Fear the Stage
Roy Orbison may be the most well-known rocker whose image cannot be separated from his sunglasses. Most the time, he wore glasses that looked very much like the modern wayfarer models distributed by Utah-based Olympic Eyewear. Would you believe Orbison only wore his sunglasses out of fear?
Orbison admitted in the 1960s that he did not have the same magnanimous stage presence as Chubby Checker or Bobby Rydell. As such, he was always somewhat fearful of appearing on stage. The sunglasses were an attempt to both hide his fear and give him an air of mystique that might compensate for his lack of stage presence.
There are some rockers who wear sunglasses for medical purposes. Bono immediately comes to mind. The U2 front man wears sunglasses because he suffers from glaucoma and his eyes are extremely sensitive to light. He prefers yellow or orange lenses that allow some light through but not enough to cause problems.
Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles are two rockers who sunglasses were intended to cover for blindness. José Feliciano was also in that camp. All three wore sunglasses (Stevie wonder still does) in the knowledge that people can find it distracting when the eyes of a blind person are visible.
Part of the Act
In some rare cases, sunglasses are part of the musician's act. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd's fictional creation known as the Blues Brothers are great examples. The two brothers wore sunglasses throughout the film that made them famous because it was part of the storyline. In keeping with that storyline, Belushi and Aykroyd continued wearing sunglasses whenever they performed as the Blues Brothers.
Believe it or not, some musicians wear sunglasses as a social justice statement. During the peak of the 1950s jazz era, greats like Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk wore sunglasses even in dimly lit club environments as a means of letting it be known they were taking a stand against institutional racism.
Good, Old-Fashioned Vanity
Last but not least is good, old-fashioned vanity. It goes without saying that some musicians prefer to wear sunglasses because they hide a blemish or just make them look good. Names like Elton John, Lenny Kravitz and Bob Dylan are all notable examples.
Somewhere, someplace there is a rock star preparing for the evening's performance. He or she will be wearing the same pair of sunglasses worn on stage the previous night. The sunglasses are part of who that person is; they will probably remain part of the musician's persona for the rest of his or her life. As for the rest of us, sunglasses are a convenient way to protect the eyes and look good at the same time.