From 649 to 714 and Beyond: Which Persol Model Is Right for You?
A closer look at every significant model the brand has released throughout its rich history
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In 1917, Giuseppe Ratti crafted the first pair of Persol sunglasses. With World War 1 underway, Ratti was tasked with working as an optician at his family’s business, Berry Opticians, where he would frequently encounter pilots who would complain about the trouble caused by glare from the sun as they flew. Taking their complaints into consideration, Ratti began to experiment with smoked lenses to help combat the glaring sun, introducing them via The Protector, a pair of sunglasses that featured smoked crystal lenses, an elastic band and rubber-edged frames. It wasn’t long before the glasses found favor among racing and motorcycle enthusiasts, which, in tandem with the army contracts Ratti then secured, helped to cement the brand. And thus Persol, the name derived from the Italian “per il sole” or “for the sun,” was born. From its quaint Italian roots, the brand has come to represent the pinnacle of luxury eyewear — a far cry from its military origins, but with the same commitment to utilitarianism and functionality still at their core.
But despite the ubiquity of Persol, many people only know one or two styles, namely the 649 and 714, and primarily for their celebrity associations. While those styles have been forever canonized, the brand deserves credit and recognition for much more than having made Steve McQueen’s preferred shades. Persol has been responsible for some extremely important advances eyewear technology, including Meflecto, a patented design that allows the stems of the glasses to bend and adjust themselves to the shape of the wearer.
So in order to help you become familiar with the brand beyond the more easily recognizable styles, we’ve detailed below the various other sunglasses that Persol includes in their Icons collection, frames that “capture the soul and essence” of the brand, some of which even predate the 649 and 714. After all, as much as we might yearn to be and look like Steve McQueen, his particular shades sadly aren’t the right fit for everyone, but that doesn’t mean your Persol journey has to come to an end. If anything, it’s just an opportunity to find an equally iconic pair.
649 – Original
Inarguably one of the most iconic pair of sunglasses, alongside the Wayfarer and the classic aviator, the 649s first rose to stardom when worn by Marcello Mastroianni in 1961’s Divorce, Italian Style. Prior to their film debut, the sunglasses were originally designed in 1957 for Turin tram-drivers, the large lenses meant to help keep out dust and anything that could potentially impair the drivers’ vision. From this style the PO9649S was derived, featuring the same pilot silhouette as its predecessor yet slimmed down for a sleeker profile.
714 – Original
While the 714s bear some resemblance to the previous 649s, closer inspection reveals thinner rims and a straighter brow-line. The most notable feature of these sunglasses though is the foldable system, the first folding sunglasses to ever be created, requiring ten additional manufacturing steps as opposed to standard pairs. Naturally the sunglasses are most associated with Steve McQueen, who famously donned them in The Thomas Crown Affair. For those looking to truly capture the essence of the actor, opt for the Steve McQueen edition, which feature all the details of the originals worn by the actor.
A departure from the previous rounded silhouettes is the more geometrically shaped PO3269S, which still offer a bold structure but are more wearable and universally flattering than the 649s and 714s, which, despite their icon status, can be tough to pull off.
One of the smaller silhouettes offered by Persol is the PO3268S, inspired by rock n’ roll, with the sleek rectangular lenses evoking the retro-style minimalistic shades worn by rock legends like the kind you would see populating Greenwich Village circa the 1960s.
You might recognize this pair as having been worn by one Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley or, if you’re a true film buff, Marcello Mastroianni in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, both films that continue to be sourced and cited as style inspiration. The sunglasses’ pilot shape is similar to that of the 649 and 714, with a straighter brow and closed nose bridge, rather than a keyhole. Currently the brand is offering the style in an exclusive cobalt blue colorway, featuring grey polarized lenses, with only 200 pairs available for purchase.
Following the PO3260S is the PO3261S pair which feature a similar aviator style yet more rectangular, perfect for those who’d like to bring some sharpness to a rounder or fuller face. Again, the brand shows its commitment to the strong brow.
For the PO3262S, Persol takes their oft-used pilot silhouette and renders it smaller, making for a lower-profile pair of sunglasses. If you like the look of the 649 and 714 sunglasses but are worried about their large frames overpowering your face, consider these as a compromise.
Looking to their ’80s archives for inspiration, Persol sourced this pair featuring the same keyhole bridge as the 649 and yet another strong, straight brow. Just like numerous other Persol frames, this pair has also starred on the silver screen, worn by Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan in the 1988 film Cocktail, in which Cruise plays a bartender on a Jamaican beach. Suffice to say, the ’80s vibes are strong with this pair and thus they are not for the faint of heart.
If you’re a fan of a more rounded frames, consider the PO3237S, inspired by an advertisement from the brand released in the 1940s. Unlike Persol’s typical tortoiseshell and black frames, this style caters more to those who aren’t afraid to step out of the box a bit when it comes to color, or just generally want something on the brighter side.
PO3105S – Cellor Original
Persol’s version of the Clubmaster style made its debut in the 1950s, marked by the rimless bottom half.
Another frame retrieved from Persol’s historical archives, the uniqueness of the PO3217S is made readily apparent thanks to the third lens above the bridge of the nose, a style that was born out of the brand’s attempt to create a pair of sunglasses that would entirely cover the wearer’s face. It’s like a regular pair of aviators, just sans that empty space below the brow. The brand offers a more angular three lens pair with the PO3223S, also drawing inspiration from the race car drivers of the 1980s.
These futuristic looking shades were in fact designed in 1935, the four lenses (yet another type of sunglasses that Persol was the first to create) meant to offer maximum protection against the sun. Referred to as “glacier glasses” because of the protection they offer against the snow, the sunglasses are without the brand’s Silver Arrow motif (which couldn’t be included due to the wraparound lenses) yet still remain instantly recognizable as the brand’s own due to the innovative design and strong shape. Another four-lens option is the PO0005, which features a near identical silhouette yet slightly less angular lenses.
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