Sunglasses are very popular in London.
And being London the fashion in sunglasses changes regularly and often. This year for instance Ray-Ban Wayfarers are back, but not in tortoiseshell brown, but in reds and whites and blues. Over the years my wife and I have amasses our collection. At this point you should say, but the sun seldom shines in London. And you'd be right. But who said fashionable shades had anything to do with sun or shine?
There are of course several towns in Europe with much more sun than dear old Londinium. I was recently in two of them in quick succession. Spontaneously I loved Lisbon and only "liked" Madrid. But what was remarkable in both those towns was that people seemed to eschew sunglasses.
I committed a cultural gaffe in Lisbon when getting into a colleague's car en route to a client meeting, I whipped out my Zegna (pictured middle right). He was driving, in the glare, stole a glance at my face, but being very polite did not remark, just screwed up his eyes and drove on. Having reflected on that for a couple of weeks, last Friday in Madrid, as I got into the taxi with colleagues en route to another client's office, I reached out for my Boss (bottom left), but checked myself just in time. The Spanish guys seemed not to mind the glare, just squinted into the sunshine, so did I - the man from Calcutta.
My darling wife commented that it must have something to do with the prosperity of parents in south-west London, compared to Lisbon, Madrid or Calcutta. She reminded me how in our youth, Bong parents cleverly reminded their kids of the risks of blindness that wearing plastic "goggles" exposed you to. And true enough we grew up with furrowed foreheads and squinted brows, but without the affectation of sunglasses. Perhaps the same is true of parents in Lisbon or Madrid. Perhaps these poorer parents lack the ability - in 2010, parents in south-west London have decked out their kids in the most up to date colourful Ray-Ban Wayfarers: it might be cool, it might even be core to parenting if you believe the UV police - but their poorer children seem to do just fine.
My cabbie in Madrid was the pasha of the furrowed forehead, the sultan of the squinted eye. He didn't thank me for hailing him at 3.30 in the afternoon: siesta time. Perhaps to exact psychological vengeance on me he had his eyes firmly shut at traffic lights, and open just a chink as he negotiated the Madrid traffic in the unforgiving afternoon glare. There wasn't a single pair of sunglasses in sight.