Sunglasses Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts

Sunglasses are far more than just a practical accessory to protect your eyes from the sun. They’re also a fashion statement and a reflection of your personality that can enhance or detract from your professional image. Here are the do’s and don’ts of proper sunglasses etiquette. Follow these tips to wear sunglasses in a way that helps, not hurts, your image.

  • Remove your sunglasses when conducting business. Being able to look someone in the eye is an important part of communicating. Talking with someone whose eyes are hiding behind a pair of dark lenses hinders one of the key ways we read others emotions. If you’re lunching with a client outdoors, find a shady spot to sit and remove your sunglasses so that he or she can look directly into your eyes.
  • Make sure your shades reflect your professionalism. Blinged-out, hot purple frames may be great with summer shorts and flip flops, but not with your work attire. Same holds true for your polarized Oakley’s that you typically wear when riding your bike or racing your car around the track. Stick with a pair of classic black or tortoiseshell frames during the workday.
  • Don’t use a pair of sunglasses as a mirror. Resist the urge to use the sunglasses of the person you’re talking with as a mirror to fix your hair or check your teeth. What you are doing is obvious and distracts the person watching you primp.
  • Take off your sunglasses indoors. Unless you have a medical condition that requires that you avoid strong light, remove your sunglasses when you enter a public place. It makes you appear disrespectful and as though you have something to hide. If you do have a medical issue, put the other person at ease by explaining the situation: “Sorry, I have to leave these on; I just came from a doctor’s appointment.”
  • Take care of your sunglasses as you would a pair of good shoes. If the plastic is chipping, the lenses have too many scratches or the frames are bent, it’s time to invest in a new pair.
  • Don’t use sunglasses as a hair accessory. If you are running into the grocery store or taking care of a quick errand, a quick swoosh of your sunglasses up to the top of your head is fast and easy. Any other time, remove and store them in a safe place so they’re protected and out of sight.
  • Remember the practical purpose of sunglasses. It’s not necessary to buy a $200 pair for business. A classic, elegant pair with UV protection doesn’t have to be expensive and probably shouldn’t be – given their delicate, easy-to-lose nature.
  • When in doubt, take them off. The bottom line…Unless you are driving, working in the yard, lounging on the beach or doing something in the sun, professionally you’re creating a barrier between yourself and those around you. In conversation, people won’t be as easily able to listen to what you’re saying. Instead, they will wonder what your eyes are doing, what you’re really thinking about, what you are hiding – or perhaps what rock band you’re in.

Exception to the rule:
When you are out with friends
or on a cruise ship sipping a drink with an umbrella in it…preferably NOT with your boss!


Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.


  1. Deb Rambo says

    Is there anything wrong with pushing your glasses on top of your head in the office? As a salesman, sometimes, in front of a client, I push those glasses up to look across the room. I know it has been said that Winston Churchill took his off for affect. Does it send a wrong message with them on my head. Thank you.

  2. Charlie says

    My boss got mad at me the other day for wearing my sunglasses when talking to outsiders of the company (my bad for not letting her know of my light induced migraines) so I decided to brush up on my sunglasses etiquette. Thank you!


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