Chrome Hearts Glasses, The Success Story of a Family-Run, Cult Classic Brand

Chrome Hearts Glasses, The Success Story of a Family-Run, Cult Classic Brand

Not only an eyewear brand, Los Angeles-based Chrome Hearts has established itself as the go-to brand for those seeking the “wild side of luxury”. Its eyewear line ranges from minimalistic to dramatic, all without losing the ultimate aesthetic. The cult classic brand maintains its original ethos of “if you know, you know” to this very day, making it quite the challenge for folks to grab a pair for themselves.

Find out how Chrome Hearts came to be, and how it has evolved to accommodate the demands of the generations to come. 

Brand History

Los Angeles brand Chrome Hearts doesn’t just produce eyewear — it also offers a variety of other products including clothing, jewellery, homeware and furniture. The brand was founded in 1988 by Richard Stark and his two friends, John Bowman and Leonard Kamhout. Stark was a merchandiser of top-grade raw leathers, Bowman was a manufacturer of leather goods and Kamhout was a master sterling silver jeweller. 

Originally, Stark and Bowman created the label to produce leather jackets that weren’t on the market at the time. In 1989, the brand had its first big exposure with a horror comedy movie called Chopper Chicks in Zombietown — the original working title of the movie was Chrome Hearts, which was where the brand name actually came from. The brand designed some costumes for the movie which starred the then-girlfriend of Sex Pistols’ lead guitarist Steve Jones. 

Jones took a liking to the brand and connected with Stark via his girlfriend, and started wearing products of the brand himself on stage. This started a chain reaction of similar bands like Motley Crue, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses requesting custom Chrome Hearts pieces, establishing the brand as an essential part of the rockstar uniform.

 

Chrome Hearts received a CFDA Accessory Designer of the Year award in 1992, presented to Stark by another music icon Cher in a full look made up of Chrome Hearts products. Stark almost didn’t accept the award at the time, as he wasn’t all that interested in Chrome Hearts being pigeonholed as a fashion brand. He said to Japan Times, “There’s no game being played for the fashion world. To me Chrome Hearts has got nothing to do with the fashion world. We don’t have any seasons. I make things when I wanna make them, because I wanna make them.”

Around the same time, the brand was introduced to the Japanese market thanks to Comme des Garçon’s Rei Kawakubo when she showcased the brand’s goods for a season in Comme des Garcon’s flagship store in Aoyama. 

The trio split up in 1994, and Stark maintained control of the brand, along with his wife Laurie Lynn (more recently, their eldest daughter, Jesse Jo Stark, joined as head of the label). Two years after, Chrome Hearts opened its first flagship store in New York City, and now has over 28 stores worldwide including locations and stocked at a limited number of luxury stores like Dover Street Market, Selfridges, Maxfield and Bergdorf Goodman. 

In the beginning, to stay true to the cult brand’s philosophy of exclusivity, Chrome Hearts had no e-commerce presence and the only way to get your hands on products of the brand was to go to a physical store. However, to keep up with the times, the Stark family had to adapt and come up with a new strategy.

With the hip hop and rap community being the most influential among the youth and young adult demographic, Chrome Hearts began to cater to rappers in the late 90s, 2000s and early 2010s, with artists like Jay Z, Lil Wayne and Juelz Santana owning a couple of products of the brand. In the present day, even artists like Drake, Migos, Travis Scott, Gunna and Playboi Carti have either worn Chrome Hearts or have rapped about it. 

Now, the brand has embraced mass consumption with the implementation of its own e-commerce platform. Even though customers can shop online for cult-classic products of the brand, Chrome Hearts’ physical stores still offer the exclusivity the brand started out with. Chrome Hearts has still not changed its brand ethos but rather tweaking products a bit to meet the needs of the new-age youth consumer. 

Craftsmanship

Chrome Hearts is known for its edgy, Gothic-inspired designs that are often featuring heavy metals — which is a nod to one of the brand’s founding members Kamhout — and intricate details. The jewellery line, in particular, ranges from silver rings and bracelets to diamond-crusted earrings and pendants.

Materials and production 

For most of Chrome Hearts products, they are made in the USA, except for the brand’s eyewear line, which is exclusively made in Japan, and handcrafted by Japanese craftsmen. Materials used for the eyewear line include exotic woods, genuine leather, gemstones and precious metals like sterling silver and 22k gold. The most common material for the brand’s glasses is sterling silver. The frames are mounted with Zeiss lenses, ensuring superior protection and quality. 

One of the ways to check that the frame is genuine is the way the temples fold. For all of Chrome Hearts frames, you can only fold in the left temple first — if you fold the right one first, the frame won’t close up completely or properly.

 

Because of the intricate details and superior quality, a pair of Chrome Hearts glasses can take up to two years to craft. The brand uses the latest innovations in optical technology, metallurgy and laser engraving to produce unique and to-the-millimetre details that can’t be achieved by other optical brands in the world. The quality materials combined with the unique production methods make Chrome Hearts one of the world’s top luxury optical brands.

Design and details

 What sets Chrome Hearts apart from other optical brands is its design and extreme attention to detail. No one can achieve what this brand has done with its optical frames and sunglasses. American fashion designer Virgil Abloh, who had collaborated with Chrome Hearts in the past, told Architectural Digest in 2019, “What I appreciate about [Chrome Hearts] the most is that it’s a brand that is about craftsmanship, a new form of luxury—but there’s a barrier to entry. A lot of brands outwardly try to get everyone, and for me, Chrome Hearts is a brand that you have to stare at to see the detail. I’ve always appreciated that, especially in this new fashion landscape where there are a million things all over the place.”

 Every pair of Chrome Hearts glasses, be it optical glasses or sunglasses, is adorned with detailed decoration including engraved silver temples, 18k gold-plated bridges and multi-layered, multi-hued acetate.  From afar, the brand’s eyewear line can seem rather minimalistic and clean, which is the opposite of the Chrome Hearts aesthetic, but when one observes the frames up-close, the signature style of excessive detail and motifs can be found in forms of engravings, added details to hinges and nose bridges and temple design. 

 

Some of the design elements used by Chrome Hearts repetitively include daggers, crosses and fleurs-de-lys as a homage to the past of bike culture, while the high technology used like intricate engraving is a nod to the future.  

On top of the frame itself, Chrome Hearts spare no expense for its packaging. Every pair of Chrome Hearts glasses comes in a soft lamb leather skin cover — the same fabric used for the brand’s wallet collection motorbike jackets and couches. Alone, a wallet from the brand can cost at least $600. This cover also features embossing on the inside, featuring the brand’s signature cross. Even the zipper is shaped like a plastic dagger.

 

That’s not all for the packaging — every pair of glasses also comes with a cloth cleaner, but in Chrome Hearts’ case, the luxurious-looking cloth cleaner can even double as a pocket square thanks to its beautiful print and silky texture. 

Top Chrome Hearts Glasses Designs

One of the most unique features of the Chrome Hearts brand is that they are very much still an offline platform, even though they have an e-commerce website. When it comes to the brand’s eyewear line, customers are still only able to browse the full range in retail shops. Even then, some designs are produced in a limited amount, so they get sold out extremely fast and sometimes customers would have to get them second-hand or through resellers. 

 

The Obarydose frame is a popular classic style of Chrome Hearts. This style features a club master style frame and comes in two colours: black and brown. It is 100% UV400 protected and is handmade in Japan. The entire pair of glasses is made from zyl acetate, other than the embellishments on the hinges which are made of sterling silver. 

 

A classic shape is the Bubba A which is a bestselling design in Asia, specifically. They are used among Japanese and Korean celebrities frequently as the shape suits rounder faces. The frame features round lenses and is made of world-class Japanese titanium. From afar, this frame looks pretty simple, but up close, there are actually a lot of intricate details including nine 1-mm laser-engraved Chrome Hearts crosses on the nose bridge. On the titanium nose pads (which are more comfortable than silicon ones) have logos also laser-engraved. On the hinges at the temple, sterling silver crosses add extra dazzle to the design, as well as two sterling silver cross pieces on each side of the temple — one near the hinge and one near the temple tips.

 

The Box Officer is a popular chunky frame of Chrome Hearts. This big square frame comes in five unique colours: army, black silver, black gold, chai and crystal. The frame is fully made out of acetate with a matte finish for the front. The contrasting temples feature metallic detailing including the Chrome Hearts dagger at the hinge. There are also four crosses next to the hinge and at the tip of the temple, there are 19 rivets to add some texture to the design. 

 

Cox Ucker is another popular frame, despite its unique name. This square frame design has been sought after by many for its unique design. It comes in three colours: black, brown and crystal, with the crystal being the most popular colourway due to its high contrast. The detailings are made out of 12k gold-plated charm and metal cores, hidden behind high-quality acetate. 

 

Last, but not least, the Lowrider is a classic. This shape of eyewear was first launched in 2000 but recently had an update. The updated shape was created by the daughter of Richard Stark, Jesse Jo Stark. This updated Lowrider offers a new balmy colour palette and has inlaid sterling silver logo bands across the brow and the interior of the hinge. The updated version gives a modern refresh of this classic style.

Iconic Collaborations

Throughout the decades, Chrome Hearts have had impressive collaborations with big-name stars, releasing everything from clothing and accessories lines to furniture and decanters. These partnerships include those with The Rolling Stones, Bape, Rick Owens, Virgil Abloh, and Comme de Garçons. Two of the most iconic collaborations Chrome Hearts have for their eyewear line are with Bella Hadid and Jordan Barrett.

Bella Hadid 

Bella Hadid has collaborated with Chrome Hearts multiple times over the years — wearing the brand’s clothing and accessories as well as customised runway looks. Chrome Hearts’ biggest collaboration for their eyewear line is with Bella Hadid which started in May 2017, and debuted exclusively at Selfridges. It was also Hadid’s debut fashion collection, consisting of clothing and accessories pieces, including optical frames, inspired by the 90s Chrome Hearts pieces. 

 

Later that year, they announced a second collaboration for a special optical line. Hadid posted on Instagram of her wearing a pair of yellow-tinted lenses glasses with the caption reading, “Finally…My second Chrome Hearts x Bella eyewear collection coming!”

 

After a two-year break, the pair announced a third collaboration, “Hellz Bellz”. The optical collection features rimless sunglasses and rectangular-framed opticals, available in tortoiseshell, white, green and black frames, with green, pink and blue lenses. 

 

As with other glasses in the brand’s eyewear line, fames in this collection are also adorned with silver and gold CH logos at the temples. 

Jordan Barrett

 Another big collaboration for Chrome Hearts’ eyewear line is one with supermodel Jordan Barrett. Frames in this collection were inspired by vintage styles, and Barrett teamed up with the Stark family to create some of his favourite frames. 

 

The collection features four different styles with variations of structural and signature elements. The “She’s Mine I’m Done” frame is a metal frame in a hexagonal shape with a light blue tint. This frame is the slimmest and chicest design out of them all, with subtle detailings of Chrome Hearts’ logo at the hinges.

 

The “Pump Me” style is a plastic frame with metal detailing. The majority of the frame is plastic, and is in the Wayfarer-style shape. There is an additional clip-on metallic piece for the lenses, adding a blue hue to the lenses. Additional metallic detailings include the signature cross logo on both hinges on the side.

 

The “Pump Station” frame is a unisex metal frame with a light pink shade. This frame is unique in the sense that the hinges are at the direct sides of the lenses rather than at the top ends where they usually are. When one wears this pair of glasses, it would sit higher on the face. This style also features a metallic brow line.

 

Finally, the “Star Stark” style is a goggle design with an orange or green lens. The lenses are not only at the front side of the face but also curve around to the corners, offering ultimate protection. The temple tips curl inwards, which not only has a unique design but also provides a better grip around the ears. The last style only had 50 pieces produced, adding to its exclusivity.

 

Celebrities Wearing Chrome Hearts Glasses

Chrome Hearts are not short of celebrities and stars wearing its products. The brand is such a staple in any rocker’s wardrobe and has also become a staple in any rap enthusiast’s. A couple of big names who have been seen in a Chrome Hearts product, whether it’s the eyewear line or clothing line, includes Jim Jones, Lil Wayne, Juelz Santana, Lil Uzi, Vert, Kanye West, Travis Scott, the Rolling Stones, Karl Lagerfeld, Cindy Crawford, Lenny Kravitz, Kate Hudson, Rachel Zoe, Bono from U2, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, Cher, Kendrick Lamar, Slash from Guns n Roses and Elton John. 

Below are pictures of celebrities wearing Chrome Hearts glasses: 

Eve Longoria in Red Riot

 

Cher

 

Jamie Foxx in Chome Hearts Throb

 

Bella Hadid in Hellz Bellz

 

Paris Hilton in Queenie

 

Cristiano Ronaldo in Kufannaw

 

Kate Hudson

 

Offset in Perfect Match

Kaia Gerber in a custom frame

 

Jesse Jo in Lowriders

 

Jordan Barrett

 

Gunna in Obarydose

 

Conclusion

Chrome Hearts have successfully maneuvered the current demands and demographic to still be relevant to its original philosophy. The cult classic brand stays true to its design elements of old and new, and prioritises exclusivity, quality and slow fashion at the end of the day. And remember, if you know, you know. 

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