CAZAL - 969
In 1985, Cari Zalloni’s iconic and architecturally extravagant frames were immortalised on vinyl in a snappy, breakbeat heavy 12-inch single by a Philadelphia rap collective known as, Cazal Boys. Featuring an uncredited appearance by a young Jazzy Jeff, Snatchin’ Cazals is both a prime example of early East Coast Hip Hop and a testament to the scene’s fierce love for Zalloni’s unmistakable eyewear. By the late eighties, the radical structures and statement temples that defined Cazal’s innovative design aesthetic had been bought powerfully into focus by Run-D.M.C’s Darryl McDaniels and his trendsetting pair of oversized, 607 “Cazzys”.
On the West Coast, a new scene was emerging – a propulsive undercurrent of sound and style that would usher in a new era of Hip Hop. Artists from across L.A. and the Bay Area made fast-paced, synth-sampling, tape cassettes or freaky electro records that would soundtrack roller-discos all over America, planting the idea that rappers didn’t have to come from New York. DJ super crews Uncle Jamm’s Army and World Class Wreckin’ Cru gave a platform to these previously unheard voices, raising up future superstars Ice Cube and Dr Dre, whose seminal 1988 album Straight Outta Compton, spoke truth to power and set in motion the all-conquering Gangsta rap phenomenon. A fresh sound required a fresh look. When Rodney-O and Joel Cooley scored an underground hit with one of the hottest records of 1987 – the funky synth track Everlasting Bass – they accessorised their super-luxe leisurewear looks with boldly structured 951 and 958 Cazals. Those signature frames became integral to the duo’s early record artwork, appearing on the sleeve of their debut album, Me and Joe, as the lavish finishing touch to a set of matching, acid-wash tracksuits. The hyper-stylised navigator shape favoured by these pioneers of the West Coast sound would prove to be a definitive feature of Cazal’s design legacy.
Handmade in Germany, the Cazal 969 is a perfectly preserved, vintage rarity showcasing the subversive glamour and ingenuity of the extreme navigator shape. It’s a style that epitomises Cari Zalloni’s longstanding belief: “Cazal eyewear must be recognisable from across the street”. The architectural feel of the 969 is informed by ground-breaking, 3D design elements, from the geometric bridge to the unique, disco-ready, glazed side shields. Zalloni’s much-imitated propensity to deconstruct solid lines and emphasise technicality is in evidence across the frame, with a statement brow line featuring cut-out detailing and ornamental screws. The two-tone, Black and Amber acetate rim is a classic variation on Cazal’s signature colourway, a distinctiveness accentuated by the Cazal logo insert on the temples. Including the original brown-gradient sun lenses, but fully adaptable for RX requirements, this mint-condition frame is an eclectic fashion choice for both men and women, bringing the bold charisma of the eighties underground to any twenty-first century wardrobe.
The origins of this cultural crossover can be traced back to Passau, West Germany, where in the late 70s, Cari Zalloni envisioned a collection of structurally distinctive eyewear for unique individuals. By combining the first syllables of his first and last names, he created Cazal, a brand that quickly accelerated the evolution of eyewear from a functional necessity to a crucial fashion item. From the outset, Zalloni’s designs were renowned for their precise German craftmanship and use of superior materials, from high-grade titanium to liberal splashes of gold – the brand’s infamous signature colour. It was this exceptional quality, in combination with Cazal’s extravagant and forward-thinking designs, that spoke to rappers like MC Hammer, whose pop inflected Hip Hop had broken into the mainstream. Vanilla Ice, another Nike spokesperson, was the first rapper to score a US Billboard chart topper with his 1990 hit, Ice Ice Baby. Ice’s frame of choice was the Cazal 955, an extreme navigator shape styled with a patchwork leather jacket and lightning strike buzzcut.
That hyper-stylised navigator shape is a defining characteristic of the Cazal 969, a vintage rarity from a 90s collection that epitomises Cazal’s iconic design aesthetic. Made in Germany, the striking colourway is a standout feature of this mint-condition sunglass, with the signature gold rim and black acetate detailing offset by brown shimmer accents across the frame front and temple. Zalloni’s ground-breaking, 3D design elements infuse the frame with an architectural feel, with a geometric bridge that flows across the brow line, transforming the soldering points into ornamental details. The statement, latticed, temples are constructed with the designer’s trademark boldness, and inset with an embossed Cazal logo. Including the original brown-tint mirrored lenses, but fully adaptable for RX requirements, the 969 would make a powerful addition to any wardrobe, signifying a fierce personal style. As a vintage piece that captures the exuberance and luxury of the 90s zeitgeist, the Cazal 969 is both a fashion artefact and a standout accessory with twenty-first century relevance.