Metro-East Living

Here are the rules for when and where to wear sunglasses

Q. I have a problem with people who don’t remove their sunglasses when speaking to me. While it doesn’t bother me as much if we are standing outside in the sun, it definitely bothers me if we are indoors somewhere or in the shade outside. I personally think it is rude. Would it be rude of me to ask them to remove their sunglasses in such a situation?

Also, on the same subject of eye glasses, is it proper for someone to clean off their glasses while sitting with me at a dining table in a restaurant — like huffing on them to steam the lenses or even dipping their napkin in the water glass? Is it proper to lay your glasses or especially sunglasses on the dining table during a meal? (You can see I have a problem with this sort of thing).

A. First of all, let’s address etiquette for wearing sunglasses: The rules below apply except for the individual who has a medical reason for wearing sunglasses. If that is the case, the wearer should immediately politely and briefly explain: “I apologize for not removing my sunglasses, but I have a medical issue and need to wear them all the time.”

▪  they are meant to be worn in the sun to protect your eyes from the UV rays of the sun.

▪  for obvious safety reasons, they can be worn while driving a car while engaging in conversation with other occupants of the car.

▪  generally speaking, they are to be removed when in conversation when outdoors in the sun. However, carrying on a conversation without sunglasses, while sitting in the sun at a ball park, or swimming event, or on the beach defeats the purpose of wearing sunglasses period. Since basic, meaningful conversation, dictates eye contact, sunglasses are to be removed when the conversation first begins to originate eye contact and then may be worn for the remainder of the event. Or, they can be removed if one of the conversants wants to make a particularly important point to the other individual, wherein eye contact is especially meaningful.

▪  they are not to be worn indoors. First of all, it is totally disrespectful, but common sense would also tell the wearer, it is difficult to see inside without removing them and therefore, one could easily trip and fall. How embarrassing that would be. Secondly, it is extremely rude to carry on a conversation with anyone wearing sunglasses indoors. The sunglasses create a barrier and can impart a sense of dishonesty when not removed. It is also important to remember your undivided attention to the person with whom you are speaking, is critical to a meaningful conversation.

▪  they are to be removed during any business conversation, whether indoors or outdoors. If outdoors, politely suggest or request moving out of the direct sun to a shady location.

▪  mirrored or reflecting sunglasses can be especially distracting and, therefore, should be removed as quickly as possible at the beginning of any conversation, whether indoors or outdoors.

▪  proper manners definitely dictate the removal of sunglasses when dining. It is also important to remember not to place them on the dining table

▪  placing sunglasses on the top of one’s head may be a fad, but it is inappropriate and in poor taste.

B. Proper etiquette for wearing eyeglasses:

▪  just as any other accessory one might wear, for example shoes, eyeglasses should be clean. Trying to maintain focus when talking to someone with dirty glasses is not only annoying but disgusting.

▪  Whether an eyeglass cleaning toilette is used or a napkin or a tissue, is it totally improper to clean eyeglasses when sitting at a dining table, whether your table mate has arrived or not. This should be done in a restroom or in your car, or before preferably before leaving home. This also applies to cleaning eyeglasses during a business meeting.

▪  eyeglasses are also not to be placed on the top of the head, nor placed on a dining table.

Finally, it is not appropriate to ask anyone to remove their sunglasses when carrying on a conversation with you. It is also inappropriate to tell a conversant their glasses are dirty. That would be equivalent to telling someone they have dirty shoes and then asking them to go clean them.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Dianne Isbell at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to