If you’re looking for a solid pair of sunglasses consider the Persol 714!
I’m not an easy guy to fit off-the-rack. If you’re reading this article, on this site, there’s a decent chance you’re the same way.
For better or worse, perhaps that’s why I’ve somewhat gravitated toward elevated accessories, especially ones I know will work.
One of these is sunglasses, and in particular, the Persol 714. So, what makes them special? Why did I get them? And, why after more than five years, are they still my most-worn pair?
About the Persol and the 714
There have been quite a few well-written histories on the brand, so I won’t delve too much into it here. But, some context is helpful to understand where we came from and where we are today.
Persol (a mashup of Per il Sol — ‘for the sun’) has been around for more than 100 years. You can trace the origins of the company back to about 1917 when Giuseppe Ratti took ownership of the Berry optical shop in Turin.
Ratti built a name for himself among early pilots by building smoked crystal lenses to block the sun at high altitudes. Called “The Protector”, it also featured rubber-lined frames and an elastic band to secure them to the head.
While sunglasses aren’t the only style item to come out of the First World War (the Cartier ‘Tank’ as well, developed after a Renault armored fighting vehicle), Persol was far from a global powerhouse.
Persol Post WWII
The interwar years saw a series of remarkable innovations in the company’s products, many of which are mainstays even today. First was the Meflecto system.
This unique system utilizes a series of stems and rods on the arms of the glasses to reduce pressure points and effectively ‘mold’ the sunglass arms to your temples. This system makes it far easier to get an ideal fit.
After the Second World War, Ratti took to designing goggles and sunglasses for workwear and the brand took on a life of its own.
Indeed, the Model PO649, blended function and form when it debuted in 1957. Persol designed these glasses for Milanese tram drivers who needed full-face coverage to block dust and make it easier for them to weave through traffic.
This model also has a unique feature along the nose bridge: the Victor Flex. Much in the way the Meflecto system is designed to relieve pressure at the temples, the Victor flex ‘bends’ along the nose bridge to better conform to the face.
Comparing Persol Models 649 and 714
The Model 714 may look at first to be a variant of the 649. But, differences reveal themselves on closer inspection.
First, the profile is much slimmer and sleek than the bulkier 649.
Second, and most significantly, the arms and bridge fold into a compact package-enabling the wearer to put it in a breast pocket. Indeed, the Persol 714s are the world’s first foldable sunglasses.
Persol had built a name and reputation on build quality, form, and function. But, it took the magic of the movies to turn Persol into an optical powerhouse and global fashion brand.
On screen, the actor Marcello Mastroianni made the 649 legendary in “Divorce, Italian Style.” And Steve McQueen turned the blue-lensed 714 into nothing short of iconic in 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair.
But, how do these sunglasses stack up today? And can you still style them?
Who Should Wear Persol 714s? And What Size?
Personally, I don’t much believe in picking sunglasses for your face shape. The 714 can be worn by just about anyone. What I do believe in, though, is picking sunglasses for the size of your face.
That’s where I like the versatility of the 714. The ‘classic’ model McQueen favored on and off camera has a lens width of 54mm. It provides plenty of coverage and protection for the wearer.
But that’s just the thing — it’s a big frame. And, it’s simply too big for my face, and too big, I believe, for most men of smaller stature and head size. There is an alternative, though.
The model I wear is the smaller, 52mm size. As you can see, it sits nicely on my face. Not too high on the bridge. Not so low the bottoms of the lens are dipping below my nose. A 54mm model is just too big.
Where Should You Wear Persol 714 Sunglasses?
If the King of Cool can do it, anyone can. The 714 reached icon status in 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair. Steve McQueen donned a pair with blue lenses and a three-piece suit to match.
The 714 is, in my opinion, easier to dress up than the 649. The profile, especially in the 52mm model, is far less brash. And, when you’re dressing up, less is very much more.
As an extension of the theme, the folding functionality of the 714 makes it especially easy to slip into a jacket inner pocket. Or, if you’re feeling especially rakish, try just sticking in your breast pocket.
While I probably wouldn’t wear them — or any sunglasses for that matter — with a tuxedo, you can indeed wear these suited up. However, I tend to dress them down most of the time. For me, a weekend look is chinos, a T, comfy white
Style is a Feeling
As I mentioned at the outset, eyewear is one of those weird parts of the internet that people love to dive into and debate unnecessarily. We’re caught up in what looks ‘correct.’ Indeed, videos on finding the right pair of frames for your face have an almost comical number of clicks.
Some buy sunglasses from the large fashion houses because they want to have the logo somewhere on their person. Some models can run you $400-$500. Or, they buy sunglasses at this price point because they want to be seen spending that much on a pair.
If you’ve supposedly got the discretionary income to drop that much on an accessory, how much do (supposedly) you have elsewhere?
But, that’s not why I bought my pair. I didn’t even get them close to retail. I found them on Amazon. I got them because, when I put them on, I feel confident. I walk straighter. Taller. I smile.
And, isn’t that worth it in the end?
Thanks for reading.
Tell me about your favorite pair of shades in the comments!