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I see that every free human who goes into Matrix wears sunglasses even when it isn't sunny outside.

The Matrix poster

Talking about coolness, Neo didn't use to wear sunglasses when he wasn't free. How come his mind started to project sunglasses all of a sudden?

Is there something else to this? Are the sunglasses some kind of augmented reality devices which give them edge over agents?

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    Because it looks cool. – Valorum Sep 6 at 8:39
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    Also out of universe I think it's a product placement that Oakley payed for. – b_jonas Sep 6 at 12:41
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    See also movies.stackexchange.com/q/70815/9391 "Why do people wear sunglasses in The Matrix?", with over 100 upvotes on both the question and an answer. – b_jonas Sep 6 at 15:50
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    @b_jonas - No part of those answers (except the reference to Trinity wearing her glasses on the motorcycle) actually address what OP is asking about their in-universe purpose. Heavy on opinion and assertion, deeply lacking in evidence-based reasoning. – Valorum Sep 6 at 16:09
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    Because "the future's so bright". (Thanks, Timbuk 3.) – Eric Towers Sep 7 at 4:52
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In-Universe.

Once Neo has seen the literal light [of the real-world], the Matrix seems other-worldly and wrong to him. This includes the painfully bright exteriors.

Per the original 1996 version of the script.

EXT. HOTEL LAFAYETTE (MATRIX) - DAY

Neo squints into the sun that seems unnaturally bright.
He is the only one without sunglasses.

Note that they're not wearing them in the car scene late at night.

Bill Pope, who was in charge of the film's cinematography, said in an interview that the sun in the Matrix was sickly and wrong-looking, with evident brightness but no warmth.

... in the Matrix the sun is created by a computer; it's sickly and not quite convincing, so I needed to find a way to nullify the sun's natural warmth.


As to why people shift to wearing glasses in the Matrix, that appears to be because they've become accustomed to wearing them in the real world. In the same (1996) earlier draft the pod-borns wear sunglasses on the hover-ship because their eyes have never gotten used to real light.

NEO: Why do my eyes hurt?

MORPHEUS: You've never used them before.

Morpheus takes his sunglasses off and puts them on Neo.
Neo lays back.

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    Out of universe, we know the Wachowskis wanted to make the movie look like anime and/or a comic book, and the shades just look cool. Like the phones. There’s a whole lot of attention paid to every detail of how things look. – Todd Wilcox Sep 7 at 3:31
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    @ToddWilcox When the movie first came out, I did thought the phones looked cool. I re-watched it last year and said to myself "Damn, those are HUGE phones!" – Nelson Sep 7 at 7:27
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    @Nelson - But undoubtedly cooler than the featureless black slabs that are now the only phones made by the main players. – Valorum Sep 7 at 7:58
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    @Valorum To us sure, and physically. Once you turn it on and see a large big high res screen though.... – niico Sep 7 at 19:03
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    I can't speak for anyone else, but personally I'm just inherently wary of any product advocated for by Umbrella Corporation. – David says reinstate Monica Sep 8 at 16:29
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Out of universe

Because the people who made the movie thought it looks cool.

Plus all the production reasons given here.

In universe

Talking about coolness, Neo didn't use to wear sunglasses when he wasn't free. How come his mind started to project sunglasses all of a sudden?

Because he thinks it looks cool.

Agent Smith puts it best.

It seems that you've been living two lives. In one life, you're Thomas A. Anderson, program writer for a respectable software company. You have a Social Security number, you pay your taxes, and... you help your landlady carry out her garbage. The other life is lived in computers, where you go by the hacker alias Neo, and are guilty of virtually every computer crime we have a law for.

Thomas Anderson, playing by the Matrix's rules, is a talented young man forced to conform. Yet he's unsatisfied and searching for something more. Trinity says...

I know why you're here, Neo. I know what you've been doing. I know why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit at your computer.

Once freed, again Agent Smith puts it best.

One of these lives has a future, and one of them does not.

His persona as Thomas Anderson was a product of his environment, The Matrix. He hated his job and always felt out of place. Once freed, he sheds that persona and becomes his more natural persona: Neo. And he changes his style to match.

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    The sunglasses were in all versions of the script so it's clearly the writer/directors who thought the glasses would be cool, not the costume designers. – Valorum Sep 6 at 20:09
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    @Valorum I originally wrote "producers". Point is, the people who made the movie thought it looked cool. – Schwern Sep 6 at 20:41
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    And indeed it is, but that doesn't really address the question asked. – Valorum Sep 6 at 20:50
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    @Valorum That's what the rest of the answer is for. – Schwern Sep 6 at 21:22
  • He copies everyone else's style. If they all wore bell bottoms, brown tank tops and big red sunglasses without lenses, he would too I suppose. – niico Sep 7 at 18:38
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Classically, in both media and the real world, sunglasses and visors represent a separation from the rest of society. Behind the glass, no one knows your thoughts, where you're looking, the reactions to stimuli. The traffic cop that pulled you over, the bodyguard watching everything, the faceless inhuman assassin. The old saying that "the eyes are the window to the soul" is never more clear than when the Terminator slides a pair on, or Blade, or the knight. And in the Matrix, the awoken and the Agents are no longer just digital cattle and fodder, gears in the machine. They are both something else, either more or less than human. And during the exposure of who they really are (cue Keanu's "Whoa"), the shades come off. Like when Smith overwrites other Agents, or when Neo meets the spoonbending kid. And Neo's separation is final when he loses his eyes, but can still see/sense the world around him, finally becoming something else.

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Because they shoot stuff up, and even tactical safety goggles don't look quite as cool.

If you have this amount of marble chips flying in the air, you need something over your eyes, or you go blind.

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    And yet, the professional military guys in the same scene don't have sunglasses or safety goggles. – Umbrella Corporation Sep 7 at 16:24
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    Oakley lenses can take a shotgun blast after all. – niico Sep 7 at 18:39
  • @UmbrellaCorporation they weren't expecting to shoot the place up that day – Pete Kirkham Sep 8 at 10:52
  • @niico the goggles, they do nothing by that measure. The point of the goggles is to protect against stone chips and dust not to bulletproof your face. – Pete Kirkham Sep 8 at 15:21
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They wear them simply because you naturally blink when firing a gun, even one with blanks. Sunglasses made the characters look way cooler when shooting. I remember the directors mentioning this in an interview when it came out.

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    I don't think they wear them simply because you blink, I'm not sure why that would even help and if so the army would issue sunglasses. That said the interview would give a good out of universe reason to this. Could you find it online and edit in the quote/link to back this up? If so it would make it into a good answer. – TheLethalCarrot Sep 7 at 8:43
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    @TheLethalCarrot This answer isn't saying sunglasses help you avoid blinking but rather avoid being seen blinking. That said, I agree this could use a bit more substance, e.g., a reference to the specific interview mentioned. – apsillers Sep 7 at 12:27
  • @TheLethalCarrot the army does issue sunglasses or rather "eye protection" – Skooba Sep 12 at 18:54

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