Toronto: A specialty in vintage shades

Nothing says winter blues combat like a flashy pair of shades. At Ontario Specialty Co (133 Church St., 416-366-9327), you’ll find one of my favorite selections of vintage sunglasses in every possible color and style.

But don’t just take my word for it: fans of the shop include the likes of Alice Cooper, The Clash, Sean Lennon, Beck, Alec Baldwin and Danny Masterson (a.k.a. Hyde from That ’70s Show), who bought 48 pairs.

The shop, which started out as a wholesaler, is a charming little store that’s been around since 1939 and has accumulated loads of unsold novelties over the past 70 years. This means the glasses you find in the store are unworn, authentic vintage. From bejewelled cat-eyes to slim grapefruit pink frames, the specs date back to the 1950s and come from Japan, France, Italy and Israel.

Next to tall shelves of tin toys, whoopee cushions, snake nut cans, rubber ducks and squirt cameras, the sunglasses seem toy-like themselves. This element of childlike play pretend is the very quality that makes retro-glamour so attractive to me. A sense of “playing dress-up” comes with juxtaposing vintage pieces with modern, structured silhouettes. Such fashion clashes drip with kitsch, projecting a presence, playfulness and humor that adds personality to any outfit.

In addition to the line-up of celebrities, generations of loyal customers return with their children and grandchildren to indulge upon the shop’s intoxicating nostalgia. Now if you’ll excuse me, I will be off puffing one of the fake cigarettes I just bought.

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