A moment to shine: Persol

As the eyewear brand of choice for many film stars over the decades, the latest Persol shoot proves it is not just ‘for the sun’; it’s for everyone

Style 14 Jun 2021

Persol PO3199S, £265
Annelise Sealy wears Persol PO3152
Amy Shore in Persol PO2469V optical frames, £204
Sara in Persol Tailoring Edition
Kirsty in Persol 3 Lenti
Viviana in Persol PO3225S, £246
Persol PO3225S, £246

Over the years, the Italian eyewear-maker Persol has kitted out some memorable films and their stars. From Marcello Mastroianni in Fellini’s 1960 neo-realist classic La Dolce Vita, to Daniel Craig as superspy 007  in the 2006 Bond reboot Casino Royale and Bradley Cooper in the 2018 remake of A Star Is Born. A full list of credits would take up too much space here, but highlights include: North by Northwest, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Mamma Mia!, Batman Begins, Lost in Translation, Ocean’s Thirteen, Sexy Beast, Argo, Falling Down, Cocktail, Being John Malkovich and The Social Network. The list goes on…

In all these, the wearers were men. As was Steve McQueen, who liked to sport teardrop-shaped folding Persol 714s on screen and off. Apparently, after McQueen turned up on the set of The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) in his own pair, the style was incorporated into his character’s wardrobe (light Havana frames with blue lenses). The King of Cool also wore this style of shades in 1968’s Bullitt and 1972’s The Getaway. In fact, so key is McQueen to the Persol story that recently the firm launched a Steve McQueen Special Edition series of five models in different colours, all fold-away 714s, of course.

Persol was founded in Turin in 1917 and the name comes from “per il sole”, “for the sun” in Italian. In its early days, it became known for making Protector goggles for pilots and the drivers of sports cars. Moving into the production of more conventional eyewear, Persol didn’t lose its practicality – McQueen’s favoured fold-up 714s are based on the famous model 649 style of wide glasses designed in 1957 to protect the eyes of Turin tram drivers.

Perhaps predictably, given the association with so many male filmstars and the “boys toys” activities of flying planes and driving sporty motors, and the famous connection with self-confessed biker and car fan McQueen, Persol has come to be seen by many as primarily a brand designed for men.

However, the truth is, these glasses have always been gender neutral. The design features are what give the brand its signature look, and give no indication whatsoever of a gender leaning: the “Meflecto” technology results in a flexible arm detail that ensures a good fit to the head, and a distinctive silver arrow steel hinge acts as a brand signifier. The glasses feature crystal lenses and are made in Italy using quality acetate. Not surprisingly, the style and high grade of the product attracts many female fans too.

Brummell decided to ask a few of these to get together – motorcyclists and car enthusiasts all – for a shoot, and the results are shown in these pages. From Amy Shore, motoring photographer, who wears optical Persols (and took the pictures, bar the one of herself, which was shot by filmmaker Guy Stephens), to rock’n’roll band The Pearl Harts (Kirsty Lowrey and Sara Leigh Shaw), wedding dress designer Annelise Sealy and artist Viviana Gomez-Morales, here are a group of women who all ride or drive, and see the Italian eyewear manufacturer as speaking directly to their personal styles.