CAZAL - 973

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We’ve Gotta Have It

(Cazal 973)

When incendiary film director Spike Lee appeared in a commercial for Nike Air Jordan sneakers in 1991, he chose to accessorise his idiosyncratic luxe streetwear look with a pair of oversized and unmistakable 616 Cazal frames. Appearing alongside basketball superstar Michael Jordan, Lee reprised the role of fast-talking B-boy, Mars Blackmon, a character he’d created for his 1986 breakout film, She’s Gotta Have It. The resulting commercial was a cultural game-changer – the moment when global recognition of the Hip Hop movement collided with the unstoppable rise of streetwear. Since the early 80s, visionary designer Cari Zalloni’s imaginative and architectural eyewear had been championed by Hip Hop’s most significant innovators. The alliance of music and fashion that characterised Cazal’s stylistic influence would continue into the new decade, a decade that saw Hip Hop emerge as a powerful and far-reaching commercial force. 

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 973, 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 blue 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 blue-tint mirrored lenses, but fully adaptable for RX requirements, the 973 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 973 is both a fashion artefact and a standout accessory with twenty-first century relevance.