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How Cartier Shades Dominated The Hip-Hop World

Seven The General (red) who refers to himself as the “Cartier King”, wears White Buffs.

Way before the hip-hop community embraced the Cartier glasses, the style dated back to 1887 when the luxury French brand made diamond-encrusted opera glasses made for a French Princess. But prior to a mass production of glasses in 1983, for nearly a century, the brand only offered special-order pieces. For over 30 years, Cartier sunglasses have remained a staple of fashion and culture particularly in Detroit. Donning an eclectic mix of nicknames such as “Carties, Cardis, ‘Ye’s or Sticks” they were first purchased by blue-collar car factory workers in the mid-’80s and eventually worn by drug trafficking, money laundering organizations and members of the Black Mafia Family; Cartier’s luxury fashionable eyewear quickly gained a reputation of being deeply affiliated with crime.

Despite the history of violence associated with the glasses, no one in the hip-hop world has been able to resist the Cartier Magic — Take some of your favourite rappers like the late Pop Smoke, Quavo and Big Sean who’ve been frequently photographed donning the French luxury brand’s eyewear.

The late Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke.

The rise in Cartier culture amongst young men in the early 2000’s was primarily influenced by Detroit hip-hop and rap lyrics. Local Detroit rappers like Blade Icewood and Rich Ken Former caused a spike in Cartier glasses sales after they were seen wearing them. Former Slaughter House member, Royce-Da 5’9 — who is commonly seen rocking Cartier shades also played an instrumental part in educating the youth about Cartiers. The Eminem collaborator  mentioned the eyewear in a song called “Shake this” where he rapped the lyrics “On some couple thousand-dollar suit type shit/ from behind thousand dollar Cartier Clips.” 

The first popular Cartier designs were the ‘Woods’,  the ‘Wire Frames’ as well as the ‘White Buffs’  that sported thick temples made out of white buffalo horn. But today,  the most fashionable Cartier design is the Cartier ‘C Decor’. Surprisingly, the now coveted design was not a hit in the ‘90’s, however, thanks to the influence of the late Pop Smoke (who was a major fan of the ‘Big C’s) the design is now in high-demand. With a retail price of $1,250 to $2,000 — C Decor’s silhouette features a rimless design that gives the wearer the option to customise the lenses to any shape or colour they desire. 

Adding to their allure in May 2020, Gretchen Whitmer, the Governor of Michigan gave a nod to Detroit fashion by wearing a pair of Cartier ‘Buff’ Sunglasses during the city of Detroit’s Everybody vs. COVID-19 online music festival. This iconic style moment came after a Detroit rapper insisted that she wear the coveted glasses. Whitmer sported the elusive Cartier C Décor frames — making her a cultural icon in the city.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

With the Summer approaching quickly would you like to see these shades on our site? Let us know.

Temwa November

TMC Staff Writer

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