Hip hoppers always have the knack for being the first to be "up" on things - fashion included. If you look back in history many garments and accessories have become synonymous with hip hop music for example KANGOL hats, DOUBLE GOOSE jackets, ADIDAS SUPERSTARS or "shelltoes", namebelts etc.. But if you wanted to look fresher than fresh back in the mid 80s then you needed to be sporting some CAZAL EYEWEAR, sunny or not!CAZAL sunglasses were and still are the utmost in style. Created by eyewear designer CARI ZALLONI: designed at his home in Austria and sold through the GERMANY-based company. His CAZAL sunglasses
(a name derived by combining the first syllables of his first and last names) were a high class product and in the 80s the prices stretched up to $500 depending on style and collection. This made them a must have hip hop accessory despite being out of most people's price range.
ZALLONI travels around the world in search of inspiration for his unique designs, and soaks up the many regional and international influences to help him create his collections. He has become famous as one of the few true globally-known eyewear designers, focusing on quality yet never afraid to experiment with designs and traditions (for example his CAZAL 821 glasses with assymmetrical lens sizes - see photo.) He realised early on that the discerning customer wanted more from their shades, not just protection from the sun. They want their choice of glasses to say something about themself, hence ZALLONI could freely experiment knowing their choice in eyewear should reflect the consumers' fashion tastes at that time.
The CAZAL 607 seemed to be the choice of most rap fans, as sported by the likes of DARRYL McDANIELS (DMC); the chunky black frames and wide lenses look great tucked underneath a KANGOL Bermuda hat. But in the late 80s the 951 and 955 models were introduced and became the choice of the next generation of both East Coast and West Coast rappers. STEADY B, RODNEY O and JOE COOLEY all sporting the more opulent designs at one time or another.
The unaffordability of CAZAL frames never affected their popularity within the hip hop community. Hip Hop kids would save up for weeks just to afford a pair, possibly only to have them stolen weeks later as was often the case in New York, Philly and other states. Those who couldn't afford a pair found it much to become stick-up kids and snatch a pair from someone else instead. At this time in New York in particular it was dangerous to be out in the tri-borough neighborhood looking fresher than the average man. Stories of being stuck up for your CAZALS or Goose Jacket were not out of the ordinary. It was so prevalent in Philly that a group called "CAZAL BOYS" even dropped a 12" release entitled "Snatching Cazals" on TEMPRE RECORDS in 1985.
CAZAL BOYS - "Snatchin' Cazals" 1985
Hip Hoppers and B-Boys alike will always have a soft spot for CAZALS. You cannot deny how dope they look as part of an outfit. Although I cannot confess to owning a pair myself despite my seeing them as hip hop essentials, so maybe I will change that. Also big props to my good friend DJH who is a sucker for a pair of CAZALS - thanks for letting me indulge in nostalgia with you. Also you ALL must check out this excellent CAZAL tribute website created by BACK Q & MAZE called WWW.DOPECAZAL.COM - lots of CAZAL history, press articles and much more. It's super fresh!!
Thanks and respects to the cool cats over at DOPECAZAL.COM and to JAMEL SHABAZZ for the "sheepskins, three stripes & cazals" photo and for the snap of the b-boys peeping the eyewear in the shop window.