Last week, Johnny Valencia of Pechuga Vintage posted a photo of Trinidadian Olympian Ato Boldon from the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Boldon, who ended up winning the silver medal for the Men’s 100 meter race, was wearing a standard running leotard with a pair of silver, reflective sunglasses that went not over his ears, but over his head. Fittingly called “OVERTHETOP,” the Oakley pair morphed Boldon into a speedy dystopian character out of Mad Max.
Curious and inspired by this image, which Valencia had initially seen on the Instagram page @velvetcoke, he searched for them online. With a bit of digging, Valencia found the OVERTHETOP shades on eBay. The seller confirmed that they were indeed the original edition from 2000, as Oakley had re-released a $2000 version in gold and bronze back in 2020, gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics. (The original OVERTHETOP Oakley’s come with a similar price tag) “I couldn’t get over wtf was going on with Boldon’s helmet-shades-googles(?) So I spiraled. Until I found them. Now confirmed for arrival, Oakley “OTT” in chrome,” wrote Valencia in his Instagram caption.
It makes sense for athletes like Boldon and the Swedish golfer Jarmo Sandelin to wear the pair, but the glasses have also become a hit in the fashion world recently. This past week, street style sensation and talk show host Kerwin Frost recently wore a pair on my Instagram show #NEVERWORNS that he was debating getting rid of. (I told him not to!) He had purchased them on eBay after seeing that the rapper Flavor Flav had worn the shades to concerts in the early ’00s. “I just started deep-diving, trying to find them,” says Frost, who also owns another outlandish Oakley creation, the Medusa helmet from 2002, a steampunk-looking leather cap with goggles. “Oakley always takes chances here and there and sometimes makes something really random like the Medusa helmet. That was another one of those things they just made for fun, that I ended up finding and wore every day for two months. The OVERTHETOPs were, and still are ahead of their time.”
Boldon agrees. When he wore them to the Olympics, commentators called the glasses “space-age eyewear.” Boldon had been friends with both a rep for Oakley and the company’s founder James Jennard, who had been talking to Boldon about wearing glasses. Olympians can’t show sponsors on their uniforms, but, according to Boldon, they can wear what they want on their face—which he refers to as “prime real estate.” In the 1996 Olympics, Boldon wore an Oakley earring, and by the time 2000 rolled around, Oakley reps asked if he wanted to wear the OVERTHETOP sunglasses. “Oakley was a fun company to be associated with because they were always trying to push the envelope, get stares, and get people to think differently about what eyewear could look like,” says Boldon.
He compares Oakley’s cyborg shades to a car company. “They aren’t mainstream, but that is kind of the point. A car company will build typical cars for their normal consumers and then they’ll build a prototype to show what they can do,” says Boldon. “This was Oakley was showing a glimpse of what they can do.”
Boldon gave both of his original pairs away to his cousin and uncle, but his OVERTHETOP sunglasses live on in the digital world. “It has been 21 years and every day on my social media I see a picture of myself [wearing them],” he says. Tips on how to get the look? According to Boldon, it’s all in the attitude. “You have to be confident,” he says. “It’s not like someone is going to put them on to go to soccer practice, they command attention.”