Can Slate Readers ID Cary Grant’s Cool Sunglasses?

What "cool" meant, and what it means now.
Oct. 16 2013 11:27 AM

The Cool Sunglasses Mystery

Cary Grant’s cool sunglasses weren’t Tart Arnels. But what were they?

Cary Grant in North by Northwest.
Cary Grant in North by Northwest, wearing the coolest sunglasses ever.

Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)/Warner Home Video

Last week, I wrote about Cary Grant’s sunglasses in North by Northwest, which I designated “the coolest thing anyone has ever worn.” While investigating the sunglasses, I identified them as vintage Tart Arnels, a conclusion others have drawn as well. Soon after the article was published, I received this email from Mary Tart:

While we do appreciate your positive endorsement of the Tart Arnels, we beg to differ with your accuracy. As you can see from my last name, I am married to the only living relative to the Tart empire since the death of Julius in 2008. While we admit from the film, it's hard to positively identify, we looked at the clip over and over and we found some inconsistencies with what would have been an authentic Tart Arnel. The major one that we caught, was when he was putting the frames back in his pocket, the temples were way thicker than what would have been on an Arnel. The size appears bigger than any size the Arnel was made in.

I wrote back to ask whether Ms. Tart could identify what the sunglasses actually were. Her husband, Richard Tart, responded:

It's really hard to get a good close up look at what they are. I have an extensive background in optical, (my whole life actually. I'm 54.) and I have a very good knowledge of vintage frames. My dearest friend runs vintageeyeglassesonline.com, and I am a consultant for him... That being said, without a real good look at them, it's really hard to tell. You also have to keep in mind, that in those days, there were so many styles that looked so similar. I could show you frames from 10 different companies, that all look similar in shape to the Arnel.
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The Tarts are flummoxed, and so am I. So we’re asking Slate readers to use their optometric expertise to help us identify the sunglasses. If you have an idea, please tell us in the comments. We’ll read the suggestions and work with the Tarts to find a positive match. And if we find one, we’ll publish it here.

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.