Sunglasses are synonymous with hip-hop. They are as important as jewelry, but oftentimes more affordable. Sunglasses help artists form a distinct identity, which helps brands become relevant. A popular musician wearing a certain pair of sunglasses adds to a brand’s legacy and drives sales years later.

“From a fashion perspective, hip-hop was always looking for some way to mature itself,” says Vintage Frames founder Corey Shapiro. “One of the easiest ways to add maturity in the time was to add eyewear.”

Shapiro cites Run DMC as the first group to wear glasses as a fashion accessory. More on that below. And because of Run DMC and other artists, many of these sunglasses are still popular and sell for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars on the secondhand market today.

We spoke to Shapiro, Julian Emani, a Philly-based sunglasses dealer, better known as Vintage Julz, Detroit mogul Joseph McFashion, and stylist Groovey Lew about the 15 most iconic sunglasses in hip-hop. We broke down the sunglasses’ origins, who made them important, and how they influenced the rest of the eyewear industry.

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