Evolution of the sunglasses

It all started in the Arctic when Eskimos came with wooden or antler sunglasses for better vision and reducing glare. Around 60 A.D., Roman Emperor used emerald green gemstone to lessen the sun’s glare in order to watch the gladiator games. In the 12 century, the Chinese invented sunglasses to defend from the sun’s rays. Soon, the Chinese judges began wearing the smoke-colored quartz to hide their facial expressions during the trial.

In the 18th century, Englishman James Ayscough experimented with blue and green tinted lenses to correct vision impairment. Though it was designed for health reasons, they did not protect from UV rays. However, it is considered to be  a precursor to sunglasses.

Between 1919 to 1929, Sam Foster established his company and launched sunglasses on the beaches of Atlantic City. He sold his first pair of Foster Grant sunglasses on the Atlantic City discovering a market for sunglasses. They were not only cheap, but provided protection from UV rays too! By 1930s, the sunglasses became popular. Around the same time, Army Air Corps asked Bausch & Lomb to come with a high-altitude glare spectacle for their pilots. Thus, the Aviator was born with the brand name ‘Ray-Ban’ meaning to ban rays.

In 1936, Edwin H. Land developed polarized sunglasses and Ray Ban introduced anti-glare polarized aviator sunglasses. The pilots got these sunglasses for free. A year later, it became available for purchase before the general public. In the 1950s, Ray Ban again popularized the plastic frames with the introduction of Wayfarer. It became more popular when celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean were spotted wearing it.

In the 1960, Foster Grant’s advertising campaign ‘Who’s that behind those Foster Grants’ made sunglasses reach dizzying heights. The 70s were a time of inflation, the green revolution and economic problems. The oversized retro sunglasses with variations in lens color became popular.

The 80s era was all about shoulder pads, jean jackets, miniskirts, bold colors and acid wash jeans. The plastic colorful frames in white, red, and aviator sunglasses became popular. Shutter Shades designed by Alain Mikli gained a lot of prominence. The 90s saw wire round sunglasses for women and sporty looking sunglasses for men becoming popular.

The new materials and technology have made sunglasses, affordable and a style statement for many. Sunglasses are a celebrity’s best friend protecting them from the paparazzi and yet giving them a stylish look. We cannot be celebrities, but can definitely look like them!

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