Cool Shades: The History and Meaning of Sunglasses
In Cool Shades: The History and Meaning of Sunglasses, Vanessa Brown addresses the links between the kaleidoscopic and evasive concept of ‘cool’ throughout the twentieth century and the history of sunglasses. It is a valiant attempt to show how sunglasses chime with ideas of detachment, superiority, alterity, meaningless and glamour, but Brown avoids explicitly addressing the true aim of the book, which is to provide an attractive theory of ‘cool’.
Cool Shades: The History and Meaning of Sunglasses is divided into nine sections that suggest sunglasses can be seen as reflections, manifestations or materialisations of diverse narratives of ‘coolness’. The thesis takes its starting point as the turn of the twentieth century, when European cultural elites dealt with alienation in the metropolis by manifesting their detachment from their bustling surroundings. The journey ends by presenting the reader with the view – largely drawn from an exploration of Andy Warhol – that ‘coolness’ is a defence against the assault on the self and the debasement of meaning, which are considered by Brown to be two central features of modernity.
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