I once had a raging argument with an ex about sunglasses.
It was sunny and I was wearing a pair. But I was chastised because it was winter and, in her view anyway, you don't wear sunglasses in winter.
It's a long time ago now and my memory of the spat is fairly vague but I probably said something like: "What do the season and ambient temperature have to do with it? Glare's glare, after all." Quite reasonable, I'm sure you'll agree.
She probably countered with some iffy fashion fact she'd read in a dentist's waiting room. And so on and so on. I can't remember if the phrase "withdrawal of conjugal rights" was used towards the end as the volume rose and the finger-wagging started, but the threat was definitely in the air. Accordingly, she was declared the victor. But inside I knew the truth: it's OK to wear sunglasses in winter.
The argument would never have happened if I'd been a celebrity, of course. There would have been no need for a debate because if you're famous you can wear sunglasses all year round, day and night, indoors and out. Nobody ever said "You're on the sofa, numbnuts" to Jack Nicholson because he went Christmas shopping in a pair of Aviators. Quite the opposite. He has been forthright on the subject of his omnipresent shades, once saying: "With my sunglasses on, I'm Jack Nicholson. Without them, I'm fat and 60."
That quote and others can be found in a new book on sunglasses by Lauren Goldstein Crowe. It's called 50 Shades – great title, no? – and features photos of celebrities wearing shades and looking cool alongside witty quotes from each of them. So, no David Beckham, then.
"An actor would do anything to become famous and then, when he achieves it, he puts on a pair of shades to avoid people recognising him," says Marcello Mastroianni, voicing one of the author's main arguments about sunglasses – that we normals wear them to look like something other than we are, while celebrities wear them to look normal. It's the equivalent, says Goldstein Crowe, of a dog sticking its head under the sofa and thinking nobody can see it.
The book is full of interesting titbits, such as the fact that a 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that people wearing fake designer sunglasses were more likely to behave dishonestly than those wearing the real thing. My favourite is the news that the Inuit were the first to wear a form of eye cover which resembled sunglasses 2000 years ago: glare's glare, after all, whether bouncing off the blue Mediterranean or the wintry ice plains at the top of the world. n
50 Shades by Lauren Goldstein Crowe is published by Real Art Press, priced £19.95.