Back in the 1980s, the “post-punk” duo calling themselves Timbuk 3 looked like they were headed for popular success. (And they were.) According to Wikipedia, Barbara MacDonald said to her husband, “the future is looking so bright, we’ll have to wear sunglasses.” Pat MacDonald translated that as “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades,” and in 1986 their ironic hit song was born, which as it happened became their greatest success.
You can still watch their video of it on YouTube.
I study nuclear science, I love my classes,
I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses.
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better.
I’m doing all right, getting good grades,
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.
The song wouldn’t work with “sunglasses” instead of “shades,” even if there wasn’t a problem with rhyme and rhythm. “Shades” was one of the coolest slang words of the later 20th century, used especially by musicians (jazz and bop) and hippies and – well, anyone else who was sufficiently groovy.
And ”shades” continued merrily in that role into the new century, until all of a sudden from Down Under came … sunnies.
At the same time Timbuk 3 was donning shades, it appears, Australians were putting on sunnies. The Oxford English Dictionary attests this with three quotations from the 1980s, including the Sydney Morning Herald’s observation in 1988: “While millions of Australians regularly wear sunnies, few consider putting such glasses on their children.”
So nowadays we have, for example, an Instagram post of two cute preschoolers “going for a walk with our sunnies.” On Twitter, Urban Outfitters declares, “So these sunnies are our current obsession.” Snowboard magazine of Colorado announces its sweepstakes on Facebook: “Snag a new helmet, goggles, and sunnies from Bollé.”
The music does’t seem to have caught up, however. A web page announcing “5 songs about wearing shades in honor of National Sunglasses Day” has nary a one about “sunnies,” and even includes Timbuk 3′s classic.
National Sunglasses Day, by the way, is coming a month from now. The serious page announcing it invites you to “Post a #SunglassSelfie on June 27 to your favorite social media outlet.”
OK, millennials, here’s your chance. Lead us out of the shades, into the sunnies side. And maybe write a song about it.
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