ADVICE: Is it rude to wear sunglasses during a chat?

An etiquette expert explains when it's okay to keep the shades on.

Maja Begovic 4 minute read June 4, 2021
sunglasses etiquette

Should you remove your sunglasses when you interact with others? Getty

Dear Asking for a Friend,

Is it rude to talk to someone with your sunglasses on if they don’t have sunglasses on, or they take theirs off?

Signed, Specs                                  


Dear Specs,

In her Cool Shades: The History and Meaning of Sunglasses book, Vanessa Brown, senior lecturer of art and design at Nottingham Trent University explains that in the 1920s, sunglasses were first used by pilots and athletes involved in water and snow sports. About two decades later, the accessory was adopted by movie stars as a way to shield themselves from the intrusive lenses of the paparazzi.

Not only do they block out camera flashes, UVA and UVB rays, sunglasses also cover up your imperfections and, apparently, make you better looking.

In her book, Brown suggests that wearing shades adds symmetry to your face, which according to science, makes you desirable and more attractive. She also reveals that sunglasses add mystery and amplify your presence – when you shield your eyes, you cover up your emotional expression, which leaves people guessing about who you are and what you might be up to. According to research, an air of mystery increases sexual desire and draws more people to you.

But just because sunglasses can help improve your physical appearance, that doesn’t mean they should be permanently planted on your face.

“When having a conversation of any substance or depth, it is recommended to take off sunglasses so you can make eye contact with the person you are speaking to,” explains Myka Meier, etiquette expert, founder of Beaumont Etiquette in New York City, and author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy: A Five Step Method to Mastering Etiquette book.” “If you are having a casual conversation outside in the sun and you are both wearing sunglasses, it is okay to keep them on. If one person takes sunglasses off, it may be considered impolite for only one person to keep them on and can be frustrating for the person trying to make eye contact.”

Countless studies show that eye contact is important when we interact with others, and our need to connect through our eyes starts fairly early in life. One study suggests that newborns prefer to look at people who gaze at them, while another study reveals that four-month-old babies process the faces of people who gaze at them more deeply than the faces of those who fail to make eye contact.

Adults who maintain good eye contact may be perceived as confident, trustworthy, more intelligent and sincere, but on the flip side, those with poor eye contact may be perceived as socially awkward, nervous or shy, and they may even make some people feel rejected.

While eye contact is important, there is a proper way to do it. Psychologists have determined that about three seconds at a time is the ideal length of time you should lock eyes with someone. It is also recommended that when speaking, eye contact should be maintained 50 per cent of the time and 70 per cent of the time when listening.

Last fall, epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists suggested that it would take more than a year before most people feel comfortable with hugs or handshakes. The lack of physical touch throughout the pandemic has led to increased stress and anxiety for some. As you continue to socially distance and wear a mask to keep others safe, the right thing to do would be to take off your sunglasses and use your gaze to properly connect with others.

Is there something about health that you (or a friend, wink, wink) have always wondered about, but are too embarrassed to ask? Send a note to We promise your ‘friend’s’ secret – and identity – is safe with us!


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