It’s the weekend before Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Little did we know, but it was the last of the sun that the festival would see, Lundi Gras and the day itself would be shivery and cold and wet. These things are not daunting to local revellers, it just means more time inside bars instead of drinking on the streets. Adapt and thrive.
Costumery is in near full effect. The first incarnations of elaborate, colourful clothes are sneaking out for a premature but welcoming showing and beads are, of course, everywhere. New Orleans goes about doing what it does best: showing off its finery on sun-warmed streets, along the catwalks of Royal Street and Bourbon Street and in the nooks of the Marigny, the Bywater and Treme.
I head to see P’Tit Rex, possibly my favourite parade. It’s like none of the other 70 parades in that the floats are all miniature, built around shoe boxes but superbly detailed and pulled along with beaming pride by their creators. You have to get down low to see the glory of some of them, lean in and nose around the finer details to truly appreciate the hard work.
As the afternoon sun starts to bring out the colour and vibrancy, most of the crowd flit between shading their eyes with their sunglasses and flipping them up onto their heads to get a look at the parade in its true pomp.
Here’s where I start to feel smug. It’s only a small, quiet victory I’m celebrating, but I still feel good about it. I’d recently got my first pair of Maui Jim sunglasses – the Kawika style if you must know, pleasingly retro and with a classic feel. My face is too small for aviator style shades, and I’m in no way rocking a surfer style, so the futuristic wrap-frames are out, too.
These (one of the company’s original styles) feel understated and timeless, like something JFK would wear, or George Clooney. And they also suit chumps like me with big round heads.
I’d never really been sold on the benefits of polarized lenses, but on a day like today, I had a small revelation. Instead of glare, and having to juggle things while I try to see the floats AND hide from the sun, these lenses were actually enhancing the colours.
The succession of cheap, 10-dollar gas station glasses that I would regularly buy - and then lose as I didn’t care about them – didn’t do this. Seems an obvious thing to say, but when you step up to buying a decent pair of sunglasses that you look after, instead of renting a line up of style-free duds (which are probably harmful to your eyes to boot), it makes a big difference.
Who would have thunk it?
The Maui Jim’s just FEEL like quality apart from anything else. They’re reassuringly, but not uncomfortably, sturdy. Not heavy, but there’s an integrity to the hinges and the frames. They’re finished with something called an ‘Antique Metal Treatment’ which makes them pleasing to handle.
The science tip on the lenses is a patented treatment that colour-infuses the view, while also wiping out 99.9% of glare. That’s more than enough for our human eyes…you’d have to be a particularly petty android to pick up on that .1%.
You can just revel in the slight contemporary twist on classic 1950s/60s design, though. You could easily wear these greats to the beach or a wedding. Or a beach wedding, I guess, would be ideal. In any case, I’m hoping to break up with that long line of cheap gas station shades. They never really worked out.