When Did Aviator Sunglasses Become So Popular?

Aviator sunglasses may be fashionable, statement-making eyewear in 2017, but this popular shape has been on the scene since 1936. The teardrop-shaped sunglasses were originally developed for use by US Air Force pilots. Since then, they have made countless appearances in movies, in celebrity wardrobes, and on the runway. The classic ‘pilot-style’ aviator frames seem to land on the ‘top trends’ lists more often than not. When did aviator sunglasses become so popular?

Aviator Sunglasses in History

Bausch & Lomb developed the original aviator-style sunglasses as an alternative to flight goggles that couldn’t perform as the job required. Flight capabilities were advancing rapidly while the pilots’ gear stalled. The sunglasses Bausch & Lomb created wouldn’t fog up like goggles, offered a comfortable, more stylish fit, and the large shape and dark or mirrored lenses blocked more light to better protect pilots’ eyes. Originally called ‘Anti-Glares,’ they were branded ‘Ray-Ban’ upon their release since they sought to ‘ban’ the harsh ‘rays’ from the sun.

General Douglas MacArthur, 1944.

Ray-Ban aviators became standard military issue during World War II and became famous after photos surfaced showing General Douglas MacArthur wearing his.

The image became the go-to ‘wartime’ look in Hollywood. After the war, the military style became popular among both private and commercial pilots, police officers, and sportsmen due to their utility and performance.

The thin, wire-framed sunglasses evolved through the years as makers began to put their own spin on the style. Randolph Engineering took over the military contract in the 1980s, and countless designer brands began to release their own aviators. Thick plastic frames and shield-style aviators began to appear, as did tinted lenses and various frame finishes. The 1970s brought feminine styling to the rugged military look using softer colors and rhinestones. This fresh approach gave the large, tough frames a unisex appeal.

Aviator Sunglasses in Pop Culture

The aviator style’s rose in popularity as it appeared in more and more films throughout the decades. Beginning in the 1950s, Ray-Ban paid to place aviator sunglasses in movies and the trend stuck. Military and police films drove the popularity of the style, while celebrities favored the look on stage and in public. Elvis wore a flashy version of the oversized frames in the 70s, and Michael Jackson rocketed thick shield aviators into popularity during the 80s.

Robert De Niro donned an updated square version of aviators in Taxi Driver, which gave the style a boost. Sales leapt a shocking 40% after Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer wore aviator sunglasses in  Top Gun.

Hollywood continued to feature aviators on screen year after year. Cobra intimidated in a pair of outdoorsman aviators, Johnny Depp’s Raoul Duke showed off Ray-Ban shooter aviators in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Bradley Cooper’s character counted on classic Ray-Ban aviators to shield his eyes from the brutal daylight in The Hangover.

This iconic style seems to be in the middle of yet another resurgence of popularity. Maui Jim, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, and Gucci are among the countless designer labels that have released their own aviator sunglasses. It’s a chic, high-fashion staple on both the runway and red carpet, yet retains its rugged, tough image. While Tom Cruise wears a pair of Randolph Engineering aviators in the recent crime film American Made, fashionistas and frenzied dressers grab their aviator sunnies before heading out on the town. After 80 years , the style’s popularity shows no sign of slowing down. With a decades-long run, maybe the question should be, were aviator sunglasses ever not popular?

The Story Behind the Wayfarer: Ray-Ban’s Most Rebellious Frames

The Ray-Ban Wayfarer is one of the most iconic pieces of eyewear of all time. You may not know the name, but you know the look.

Since 1937, Ray-Ban has been a leading manufacturer of premium American eyewear. One of their earlier designs – The Aviator – put them on the map. Aviators were designed specifically for pilots who had trouble seeing focusing their eyes due to the ultra bright blue and white hues of the sky. The design took off.

Then in 1952, Ray-Ban had its second big hit with the Wayfarers. The inspiration came from two unexpected sources: the Eames lounge chair and tailfins from the classic Cadillac design.

An odd mix, sure, but the result is a stunning piece of American fashion that’s endured for decades.

At a time when most glasses were metal, these were made of plastic, and the temples had a distinctive flared angle. Designs like this may seem standard to our eyes today, but half a century ago, these were revolutionary.

‘Unstable Dangerousness’

As 1970s fashion critic Stephen Bayley puts it, the Wayfarers “spoke a non-verbal language that hinted at unstable dangerousness.”

When movie star bad boy James Dean was seen wearing Wayfarers, it cemented the frames as a symbol of rebellion.

Other stars followed soon suit.Audrey Hepburn could be seen sporting the specs, followed by Cary Grant, Kim Novak, and Marilyn Monroe. It wasn’t just actors: artists and musicians like John Lennon, Andy Warhol, and Bob Dylan all embraced the defiant, radical spirit of the Wayfarers.

Of course, seeing every major icon of the ‘50s and ‘60s sporting these had a tremendous impact on sales. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. It wasn’t until the 1980s when then Wayfarers came thundering back into the public eye.

 

The 80s Resurgence

Ray-Ban made a product placement deal in 1981 that put Wayfarers onscreen over 60 times in movies and TV shows. After Tom Cruise paired Wayfarers with tighty whities in Risky Business, sales skyrocketed. Viewers saw them on Don Johnson in Miami Vice, on Bruce Willis in Moonlighting, and on Tom Cruise again in Top Gun.

Almost every major musician of the ‘80s wore them at concerts: Michael Jackson, Madonna, U2, Billy Joel, Queen… the list goes on!

And they’re still going strong. James Franco, who once played James Dean in a TV movie early in his career, can be seen wearing the specs some 50 years after Dean rebelled without a cause. Celebs like Johnny Depp, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johanson, Bruno Mars, Joe Jonas and Robert Pattinson avoid the paparazzi in the distinctive Wayfarer frames.

Are You a Wayfarer?

Ray-Ban Wayfarers have unquestionably survived the test of time, remaining a top seller a half decade after their premier.

Wayfarers look stunning on oval-shaped or round faces, and the design is perfect for males and females.

 

This is the perfect time to get your your own pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer eyeglasses and save big at FramesDirect.com. Click here to get some of your own.

Related:

 

9 Bold & Stylish Glasses Guaranteed to Make an Impression

You’re not looking for “boring.” You don’t want “standard”.

You deserve better than “ordinary.”

You want frames that match your unconventional spirit. Here are 9 daring, inspiring and stylish glasses that you won’t soon forget.

Best of all, all of these frames are currently 40% off at FramesDirect.com, along with eyewear from over 100 premium brands. Prescription lenses are also 50% off! Click here to see the full list of participating designers and brands.

Carrera CA1008/S Sunglasses

With a retrofuturistic design and color scheme, these eye-popping Carerras are sure to stand out from the crowd.

Caviar 5611 Champagne

As the name implies, the breathtaking Champagne frames from Caviar are the definition of elegance, grace, and sophistication. Pure class.

Dolce & Gabbana DG 1287

Dolce & Gabbana delivers a stunning silhouette as always, but what really sets these frames apart is the intricate webbing detail in the temples.

Kate Spade Amara/S Sunglasses

Easily the most understated look on this list, the design is striking nevertheless. The black accent atop the clear frame perfectly mirrors the shape of the temple, creating a timeless, satisfying look.

Marc Jacobs Marc 16/S Sunglasses

That classic circle shape with the cat-ear accent. Those beaded details. The way it adds drama and an upward accent to any woman’s face. Perfection.

Miu Miu MU 54SS Sunglasses

Speaking of drama… Miu Miu took sunglasses and made them a work of art. If Audrey Hepburn made Breakfast at Tiffany’s today, she’d be rocking these. Available with an extra-protective mirror coating.

Prada PR 07TS Sunglasses

The best fashion brings you joy just by looking at it. These playful curlicues and fearless accents bring a smile to anyone who sees you wearing these.

Roberto Cavalli RC1024 (CARDUCCI) Sunglasses

Can you tell that Italian designer Roberto Cavalli started his career as an artist? The whimsical flourishes he brings to these frames are daring and experimental, and the result? Class, sophistication, and artistry.

Tommy Hilfiger TH1481 Eyeglasses

Simple concept, stunning execution. There’s a good chance you know someone who’s style perfectly matches this classic, black and white, Tim Burton meets Daria aesthetic. Maybe it’s you.

Is it time for a fresh new pair of specs? Any of the above frames will add grace, beauty and confidence to your look!

Act now to get any of the above (plus eyewear from over 100 top designers and brands) at a staggering 40% off. Plus, you can add prescription lenses for 50% off!

I have to warn you, this is a temporary offer… the page linked below might be down already.

Click here to see all the participating brands and designers.

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Share Your Style Contest WINNER

To celebrate National Sunglasses Day, which is coming up on June 27th, FramesDirect.com decided to hold a contest for our customers to see who could submit a sunglasses photo with the most Summer Style.

Thanks to everyone who entered, but our team had to declare the winner was Kristy with this amazing shot!

Kristy will get any pair of sunglasses she’d like from FramesDirect.com! Congrats.

But we’d also like to shout out all the entries that we loved, but didn’t quite make the cut. Here are some of our favorites…

Twelve Style Experts Who Love Sunglasses As Much As We Do

by Sarah Hall Weaver

We want to share the love with a little shout out to some of our favorite Instagrammers, vloggers, and lifestyle experts. Each of these style gurus has their own unique sense of fashion and found their own clever way of rocking our favorite accessories – sunglasses, of course! Check out these trending looks as we enjoy the last hurrah with our winter wear and start to gear up for spring.

ray-ban-round-sunglasses

 

Kathleen Post from Lemon Blonde aces her brunch game with a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses…in fact, it looks like the whole squad got the memo! Kathleen is wearing the RB3447’s, a metal sunglasses design that’s at the top of the trends right now. The round shape is everything and the thin, sleek metal frame allows a minimalist look that goes with just about anything (yes, even an early afternoon of bottomless mimosas).

 

Kelechi Kalu is a singer, actor and man about town…and considering his expert-level fashion sense, it’s safe to say he does it all. We love this cool, collected, street-style look he finished off with a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses. He’s wearing the RB3517 which are actually folding sunglasses that fit easily into your shirt pocket, perfect if you’re a jet-setter on the go like Kelechi.

 

Steph Weber, aka Trendy In Indy, is a fashion blogger that works as a buyer and brand manager by day. Steph gave this cute, casual look an edgy upgrade by topping it off with a pair of timeless Ray-Ban aviators. She’s wearing the RB3025 sunglasses, the most classic pair of metal aviators around. This unisex style has a long-standing history of being a simple solution for any ensemble in need of something definitively cool.

 

Dylan Benjamin, the blogger behind Life By Dylan, is an entrepreneur, health nut and proud papa of one cute little dude. He’s also a recent transplant to our hometown of Austin! He rocks a pair of Oakley Tailpin sunglasses and we just love this style on Dylan. It has a slim, sophisticated frame and unique temple line that looks totally fresh with casual wear like you see here, but balances nicely when it’s time to suit up too.

aviators-for-the-beach

 

Lauren Wells is a travel and lifestyle writer that brought along her sunnies to the best place you can go—the beach! A fly pair of sunglasses, super soft sand and warm emerald waters…what else could you need? Lauren is wearing classic Ray-Ban aviators, a versatile look that can be as bold or as fun-loving as you need it to be.

oakley-twoface

 

Dr. Andrew G. Carr, aka inn8chiro on Instagram, is a practicing chiropractor and men’s style buff. He has a cool, eclectic air to his look and is a top notch expert in the elusive art of layering. We love the way he uses different texturesdenims, wools, flannels, leathers, etc. Here Dr. Carr wears a sleek pair of Oakley Twoface sunglasses for another element of contrast. The sharp lines along the temples and ultra-smooth finish give these shades a nice pop against his knits.

RB4253-ray-ban

 

Our friends at Hungry Hipsters have a knack for putting a rumble in our tummies and making us completely second guess the level of fun we incorporate into our day-to-day ensembles. This style super-team particularly reigns supreme when it comes to accessorizing. From funky cell phone cases to the wildest of handbags, expect lots of color and quirky, playful shapes in each of their looks. Here they pulled some perfectly pink sunnies for a sugar-sweet Valentine’s post. These RB4253 Ray-Ban sunglasses feature a trending design in a shiny fuxia frame that will have you seeing hearts…even if Feb. 14 is long out of sight.

RB4253F-ray-ban

 

Breann Bowman is an indisputable master of all things neutral. This ultra-chic, lifestyle bloggin’ mama claims to “never wear color” and she more than pulls it off. Here she sports a pair of RB4253F Ray-Ban sunglasses in shiny opal beigesomething to stray away from grayscale but a sophisticated, striking neutral nonetheless. We especially love the sense of depth and texture she gets from the translucent frames.

wood-clubmasters

 

Alex Young is the lifestyle blogger behind Eat Style Dallas. We love Alex’s clean-cut, well-kempt yet totally chill sense of style. Ok, ok, we love drooling over all the delicious noms he posts too! His simple, uncluttered approach to fashion is a great way to let the quality of a wardrobe piece shine a little more brightly. Here he’s rocking a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses with wood frames. The handsome walnut finish gives this accessory a special, sophisticated pop, as evident even when clipped along his T-shirt collar as an indoor style statement.

mens-sunglasses-style

 

Josh McBride, lifestyle expert extraordinaire, visited CBS LA to share some Valentine’s Day gift ideas for your special guy. He brought along a pair of Oakley sunglasses and a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses to show off. Josh describes these popular brands as “trendy” and “in”, and we think he was right on the nose. We love the idea of designer sunglasses as gifts for your SO because they are perfectly practical and universally liked, making them an easy win for even the most difficult-to-shop-for guy.

over-sized-ray-bans

 

Amy and Nathan of Two Drifters are travel-minded lovebirds with an adventurous sense of style. As they travel the world arm-in-arm, they keep it cool and classic with little pops of smart, trendy detail. Being the experienced travelers that they are, they know to keep a pair of sunnies on hand at all times—even while enjoying beautiful Vermont in the heart of winter (all that snow catches a mean glare!). Here Amy’s rocking the CATS 1000, super chic, oversized Ray-Ban sunglasses. Paired with a satin bomber jacket, she has a hip look that’s well-suited to exploring the neat streets of Manchester Center.

prada-sunglasses

 

Last but not least, Riann Star, a fashion and lifestyle vlogger, includes one of the most in-demand designs in her current trend reportRay-Ban’s Gatsby sunglasses. We love her fun, flirty sense of style, but especially her ongoing focus on minimalism. She has a talent for picking sharp, key pieces rather than over cluttering a look with too many elements and competing details. Riann groups these sleek, double bridge sunglasses opposite faux furs and velvet accessories. Altogether, she a locked in a great selection of textures that will really work well with each other when paired into full ensembles.

Latest from Carrera, Hilfiger, and McQueen + NEW Brand: Carlos Santana

At FramesDirect.com we’re constantly updating our site with the latest eyewear styles to keep the selection fresh and exciting. And it’s not all about Ray-Ban and Oakley. Check out a few new frames from some slightly more under-the-radar designers. Carrera has a cult following and McQueen is known for goth inspired luxury. And if you’re not curious about the most recent Tommy Hilfiger sunglasses, maybe you would like the newest brand on our site, Carlos Santata. Oye como va!

Carrera sunglasses

These teardrop shaped Carrera shades are aviator-inspired, but with a twist. Known for their super sporty 70s influenced designs, Carrera brings us promptly up to 2017 with this fashion-forward look. Gold detailing keeps things classy and adjustable nose pads will guarantee an no-slip fit. Try them in tortoise for a softer look.

alexander mcQueen glasses

Alexander McQueen eyeglasses are known for being on the cutting edge of trends. With this pair, you get not only a bold and modern look, but well thought-out construction that will ensure the frames sit comfortably. With an eye size of 50 these are perfect for smaller faces and people with strong prescriptions

ommy Hilfiger sunglasses

Round lenses are everywhere these days, and so are throwback double bridges. This pair of Tommy Hilfiger sunglasses brings two trends together with major impact. Reflective lenses will keep your identity under wraps. All anyone will know is how cool that mystery man (or woman) is behind the shades. Check out the lovely rose gold version as well.

Carlos Santana eyeglasses

This pair of creamy, turquoise frames are sure to garner many compliments. From the new brand on the block, Carlos Santana, who brings the same style savvy he’s known for with his shoe line to eyewear. The square shape is modern yet flattering and the silver detailing at the temple will bring some light to your face.

Smith sunglasses

And finally, Smith Optics carries out their tradition of crafting durable, stylish eyewear for active lifestyles with this amazing pair of shield sunglasses – in sparkling gold. Yes these are great for the slopes, but we think you could make these work as a fashion statement on the pavement as well.

golden globes 2017

Golden Globes 2017 Eyewear Edition: Glasses of the Stars

The stars came out in droves for the 2017 Golden Globes awards ceremony last night. All eyes were on the red carpet, checking which celebrities brought their A-game. While La La Land was the clear winner, the film Moonlight and the television show Atlanta were on everyone’s lips as they collected the accolades. The audience was also filled with excitement when Brad Pitt took the stage to present.

But the big moment of the night went to Meryl Streep, the recipient of this year’s Cecil B. DeMille Award. Streep is regarded as one of the finest actresses in the film industry. She used her platform of recognition last night to address political concerns and issue a call-to-action for artists and journalists. Always the epitome of class, Streep looked regal in a black gown with bejeweled applique and, of course, a pair of glasses.

Lulu Guinness L750 Eyeglasses

vera-wang-catlin-eyeglasses

lafont-indigo-eyeglasses

If you’re in the market for a coppery, semi-rimless, cat-eye frame like Meryl’s we’ve come up with a few options that fit the bill. The Lulu Guinness L750 eyeglasses are comparable. And this Vera Wang pair (Caitlin) are also similar. But you can take this look to the next level, with Lafont Indigo frames, a true style statement.

Billy Bob Thorton accepted the trophy for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series (Drama) for his performance in the Amazon Original Series Goliath wearing sunglasses that look a lot like the Ray-Ban Clubround.

rayban-rb4246-sunglasses

And Steve Carell, along with Kristen Wiig, introduced the films nominated for best animated feature film. While handing out the award to Zootopia, Carell wore some interesting two-tone acetate frames that gave his look a retro twist. You too can be quirky-cool like Steve in these Shuron Sidewinder eyeglasses. Choose the “Black Fade” option or the popular “Crystal” clear version to take part in this throwback trend.

shuron-sidewinder-black-fade

oakley holbrook

Brave the Elements in Rugged Sunglasses for Winter

Winter is here and she can be a cruel mistress. Frost bitten fingers, icicle earlobes – but we know that won’t stop you from exploring the outdoors. This list of winter-ready sunglasses for winter is for all you adventurers out there – who ski, hike, and frolic regardless of the temp.

  1. Maui Jim Lighthouse 423 Sunglasses

maui jim lighthouse sunglasses

Many outdoor enthusiasts are already fans of the incredible clarity that Maui Jim sunglasses provide. This pair is perfect for protecting your eyes no matter what the season, but if you decide to take them out on the slopes you will truly appreciate the non-slip rubber nose pads. This unisex frame is so lightweight you’ll forget you’re wearing it, and the modified rectangle shape will hug your head and complement your facial features.

2. Wiley X WX Valor Sunglasses

wiley x valor sunglasses

Next up are the Wiley X Valor sunglasses. Wiley X were originally designed for military use, so you know they will withstand the elements, even when the temps drop. Ballistics-quality shatterproof lenses mean you can count on these sunglasses to protect your eyes no matter how extreme your hobbies are. The wrapped sporty shape will keep your face warm while making you look cool.

3. Oakley Flak 2.0 XL Sunglasses

oakley flak 2.0 XL sunglasses

If you appreciate high definition optics and rugged design, these Oakley Flak 2.0 XL sunglasses may be right up your alley. The enhanced coverage from the lenses will ensure no sun, wind, or snow is coming near your eyes. One of the best attributes of this pair comes from Oakley’s patented material, Unobtanium®, on the ear stems and nosepads. This grippy material will keep your sunglasses on your face and actually increases grip when you sweat.

Ray-Ban RB2027 Predator 2 Wrap Sunglasses

Ray-Ban RB2027 - Predator 2 Wrap Sunglasses

These Ray-Ban Predator 2 sunglasses are a little bit unexpected. Normally Ray-Ban is known more for fashion-driven styles and less for full protection from the elements. But, if you like that edge-y look but still need performance from your sunglasses, this pair might be the perfect compromise. They’ll look as good with your snowboarding gear as they do with a suit.

Costa Reefton Sunglasses

costa reefton sunglasses

Do you suffer from “big-head”?  It’s OK, its not just you! Named for a place of extraordinary natural beauty in New Zealand, these Reefton sunglasses from Costa are our pick for larger heads. You cannot beat the durability of Costa frames, and the polarized lenses will render the world in gorgeous crisp colors.

Related: Costa sunglasses, Costa C-Mates Bifocal Readers Sunglasses, Costa Eyeglasses, Costa Omni Fit Sunglasses and Costa Prescription Sunglasses

Prada, Michael Kors, Persol, and Tory Burch Caught on Film

Here at FramesDirect.com we sell the highest quality designer glasses from the most fashionably aspirational brands.  Four of our favorite brands got the Hollywood treatment when we created some imaginative video vignettes. These original narratives speak to the unique brand stories of Tory Burch, Persol, Michael Kors, and Prada eyeglasses and sunglasses.

First up, a ton of Tory Burch sunglasses go on vacation to the Hamptons. We find our Tory Burch fanatic trying to pack her suitcase for the weekend (wearing a gorgeous Tory Burch shift dress), but there’s not quite enough room for every style that she wants to squeeze in. Do you think she will sacrifice her books and bottle of wine for a wardrobe of sunnies? Watch the video to find out!

If you’re not already familiar with the Persol brand of eyewear, this is a beautiful introduction. These hand crafted, Italian frames are perfect for the man who is passionate, creative, and discerning – just like the artist in the video. Watch as he gets inspired to create a colorful mural while wearing 3 different sophisticated spectacles.

Michael Kors is a beloved American sportswear brand whose designer has also become a famous personality due to guest appearances on Project Runway. Much like the contestants on that show, in our video a fashion designer is experiencing a creative block. That is, until some Michael Kors sunglasses become the pièce de résistance of her design.

Finally, we have Prada – the final word in chic eyewear. A brainy yet fashion-forward pair of scientists are working in the lab when the equations on the wipe board create a surprising pattern. Can a love of fashion lead to chemistry? Anything is possible.

We had a great time on set creating these videos. Thanks to the team at Sparksight, here in Austin, TX, who turn fashion dreams into reality.