A few weeks ago, Mindy Kaling tweeted, "I think we will regret this tiny sunglasses look." She was reacting to something we've all watched with wonder over the past year: The curious case of the shrinking shades.
First there was Kanye West famously dictating to wife Kim Kardashian over e-mail that she no longer wear big sunglasses if she wants to be cool. Then Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner jumped on the trend, as did major fashion designers like Alexander Wang and Adam Selman. Kristen Stewart recently also wore teensy gold frames at Cannes.
But while the red carpet and pap snaps show us one thing, Twitter shows us another: a bunch of confused people (and celebs) who are 100 percent not on the same page. "I remember this moment in the mid 90's #regret," Reese Witherspoon responded to Kaling. Busy Phillips admitted to buying a pair but never wearing them. Padma Lakshmi simply sent two cry-laughing emojis. Kaling's tweet went viral, showing up on various Instagram meme pages and garnering more than 105,000 likes and 17,000 retweets to date.
So what's the answer? Are we for or against these Matrix-esque shades? How long will they stick around? And the biggest question of all: Was Kanye right?
WHY SUNGLASSES GOT SO SMALL IN THE FIRST PLACE
Trend-setting is cyclical, according to Dr. Vanessa Brown, professor at the School of Art and Design at Nottingham-Trent University and author of Cool Shades: The History and Meaning of Sunglasses.
"One thing you can guarantee with fashion is that when things have reached an extreme aesthetically, they'll swing the opposite direction," she says.
So as soon as glasses grew so big and bug-eyed that they were covering your whole face, around the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, that's when small shades started popping up on celebrity faces and infiltrating your Instagram feed. Stella McCartney, Adam Selman, and Roberi & Fraud were among the first brands to lead the charge last year.
Plus, when the masses start wearing a fad, it suddenly becomes uncool to the It crowd, so designers and style stars start asking themselves, "What's the bravest and seemingly weirdest thing to do?" Behold: baby shades.
"Small frames are new and exciting," says Hamish Tame, creative director for Australian sunglasses brand Le Specs, which carries many a tiny frame. "We've lived through so many years of the heavy, oversize trends that now it feels fresh and liberating to wear a pair of small sunglasses."
THERE COULD BE A SUBCONSCIOUS POLITICAL MOTIVATION
When you think about slim shades, you may think of the ones that were popular in the '90s — but Brown says those tiny glasses actually harken back to the '60s, when The Beatles popularized them. The small metal frames The Beatles wore from brands like Ray-Ban were an effort to bring back a simpler version of the accessory — it was a statement of skepticism of the new materials and technologies being used elsewhere. At the time, most other sunglasses, particularly by designer Paco Rabanne, used porous, bendable plastic, lending them an alien, futuristic vibe.
Brown thinks this new wave could mean that people once again are "worried about the future and concerned about what progress and technology has brought to us." (A simpler explanation: They're merely concerned about ski goggle-like tan lines.)
The political idea may seem like a leap, but Brown thinks it's more about subconscious expression: "When people design things, whether they do it knowingly or not, they're resolving tensions and problems that exist in their minds," she says. "The things that end up becoming popular can help people reconcile."
SO, IS ANYONE — OTHER THAN CELEBRITIES — ACTUALLY BUYING THESE THINGS?
In a word: Yes.
"Our customer is definitely embracing slim sun," says Erica Russo, fashion director for accessories at Bloomingdale's, adding that they still stock plenty of larger shapes. "There are definitely different ways to approach the trend, and we bought into more of the cat-eye version, because that can be much more flattering."
LET'S BE REAL. ARE THESE SUNNIES ACTUALLY STICKING AROUND, OR...?
Tiny shades aren't going anywhere anytime soon. You're still going to see the Bella Hadids of the world wearing them out and about in NYC or in selfies on Instagram.
"We still have a lot to explore with the narrow styles, where we can start to experiment with shapes and materials," Tame says, referring to geometric looks like hexagons and interesting iterations of metallics and plastics. "I would give the micro moment at least another few years."
For you doubters out there, Tame does offer a glimmer of hope about the Great Shrink: "Any smaller, and we'd be wearing paper clips."
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.