These days, Todd Smith is really into his Kim Jong-ils. “They’re pretty freaking stunning,” he says. “They kinda look like a wall that covers North Korea.” The Ils are a pair of sunglasses that reference the Supreme Leader’s signature style, just one of the pairs in the Dictator line from Stunner of the Month (stunnerofthemonth.com), the sunglasses subscription service Smith and his friends run out of a house in San Francisco.
The SOTM crew has been collecting stunners—sunglasses in over-the-top styles and colors—for a while, so when Smith was laid off from a banking job with Merrill Lynch, he decided to turn his passion into a business. He started with a fact-finding mission to the mecca of stunna shade manufacturing: China. One year later, Stunner of the Month now ships to about 1,000 customers in 46 states. Clients choose the gender preference for their stunners—male, female or unisex—and for $9 every month, the SOTM algorithm picks a pair of wild shades to send, complete with name and backstory. If you get the Icicles this month, next month might bring the Aboriginals or the Apprentice. Whatever comes in the mail, you can trust that Smith would never send the same thing twice or anything as boring as brand-name mall shades.
While the system is simple so far, Smith hopes that SOTM will develop the algorithm to account for more preferences, like clear lenses. “It’s not bad to wear your stunners at night,” he says, laughing, “but sometimes it’s really dark.”