I've never been a sunglasses person. Not because I always lose them or break them, but they were just never anything I was willing to invest over $10 in. That is until last week.
While shopping my way down Smith Street in Brooklyn in order to beat the heat (the heat is a very good excuse to go shopping), a pair of sunglasses at Epaulet caught my eye: They were black, looked like a cross between cat-eye glasses and wayfarerers, and made by a company called Shuron out of South Carolina. But these frames predate Ray-Ban's wayfarers. Ray-Ban started making wayfarers in 1952, Shuron has been around since 1865.
I had to know more. I called up Shuron this morning and owner Charles Whitehill picked up on the first ring. Turns out Shuron is a company with a lot of history, and Whitehill was happy to tell me about it.
All of Shuron's quality frames are made in the USA, which is truly a rare thing when most designers are struggling to produce garments locally. Based in Greenville, SC, the factory employs 82 people and produces around 10,000 frames a month.
The secret to Shuron's longevity? "We have taken the position that if it's not broke don't fix it," says Whitehill. The designs of the frames are elegant, and obviously, timeless. In the 1950s and '60s, Shuron's Ronsir Zyl frame was the most popular model in the country, and accounted for half of all eyeglass sales in the '50s.
Moreover, they're well made. Shuron focuses more on prescription frames, and understands that one-size does not fit all. The frames come in different measurements to fit each face, and they are constructed using high quality materials--whether it's plastic, plated metal, or using the best hinges.
Whitehill is blissfully unaware that his frames are being carried by carefully curated hipster boutiques (besides Epaulet, Thrillist wrote up an Austin, TX boutique that carried them as well). Martha Stewart featured the "Freeways" in crystal with green lenses in the June issue of her magazine, but so far, that's the only hint he's seen that his frames are gaining in popularity right now.
We're blowing up his spot.
Bonus fun fact? The company name, Whitehill told me, came from back when the company used to make pince nez eyeglasses which were marketed with the promise that they would stay "sure on" your nose.
Of course Shuron isn't the only US-based sunglasses company benefiting from the trend towards thick statement frames, towards heritage brands, and, you know, that whole "geek-chick" thing.
Moscot, stocked at Smith + Butler, right next door to Epaulet, has been making frames for almost as long as Shuron, and is still run by the Moscot family on the Lower East Side.
Their "originals" line, which includes their best-selling "Nebb" and "Lemtosh" models are based on designs from their archives, says President Kenny Moscot, the fourth generation of Moscots to helm the company.
"The heritage of the brand is so pure and strong and people relate to us," says Moscot, a trained optician as well as designer. "I don't put frames on anyone's face...the core styles of the collection play so well because it was function over form which evolved into form over function."
Read more from our Sunglasses Special Report: Do $500 Sunglasses Protect Your Eyes Better Than a $5 Pair? Maybe Not. Our Favorite Sunglasses of the Season