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?

Armed Forces Eyewear Launches a New Look to Honor the American Military Family

Armed Forces Eyewear Launches a New Look to Honor the American Military Family

Armed Forces Eyewear introduces a new look.

Armed Forces Eyewear introduces a new look.

Austin, TX – January 23, 2013 – AFEyewear.com, originally launched in 2008, has updated and improved its website, which is designed to honor all current and retired military personnel and their families. AFEyewear.com has always been committed to providing affordable and premium quality eyewear for every military family, and its newly streamlined website, www.AFEyewear.com, is now even easier to use and navigate.

AFEyewear.com marketing manager, Lauren Purcell, said “having access to affordable eyewear is a need for every military family, and AFeyewear.com is here to meet those needs and exceed users’ expectations. AFEyewear.com was designed for one purpose and that is to guarantee the best prices for military families on all eyewear including designer brands.” She continues by saying “we offer the best customer service, and every prescription order is handled by our certified options.”

AFEyewear.com makes it easy for military families to purchase quality eyewear by

1) Providing an exciting and innovative PD (Pupil Distance) Measuring tool for customers, called PDCapture℠, which can measure a customer’s pupil distance with 100% accuracy. Information about this new tool is available upon placing an order

2) Offering free shipping on orders over $99*

3) Helping military families save money with additional promotions on top of its everyday low prices

4) Price matching plus 10% for anyone who finds a lower price on AFEyewear.com’s top quality frames

AFEyewear.com carries tactical eyewear as well as prescriptions lenses for issued eyewear and everyday eyeglass frames, this includes designer and premium quality labels. AFEyewear.com knows that while some units are issued protective eyewear, others are not. This is why AFEyewear.com offers both ANSI and ballistic-rated eyewear that helps military personnel meet their deployment eyewear needs at an everyday low price. AFEyewear.com provides a 100% guarantee return policy in order to provide peace of mind for all military personnel and their families and offers a full refund within 30 days of purchase. AFEyewear.com wants to make buying eyewear an easy and enjoyable experience so that military families can forego paying more at a local optical store and start saving money with AFEyewear.com.

About Armed Forced Eyewear:

Doctors of Optometry Guy Hodgson and Dhavid Cooper sold their five eye care practices and founded online eyewear company, FramesDirect.com, in 1996. In April 2008, at the request of AAFES (Army & Air Force Exchange Service), Congress and the Surgeon General’s Office, FramesDirect.com began building an entire website specifically for active duty, veterans, retirees, and dependants of the United States Military. The military website, www.AFEyewear.com, was launched to the military public in August of 2008.

* FREE Shipping on orders $99 and up excluding contact lenses and certain exchange orders

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New at FramesDirect.com: Randolph Engineering Sunglasses

Sunglasses from America’s Randolph Engineering Now Available at FramesDirect.com

Wear the sunglasses Johnny Depp, Jon Hamm, Tom Selleck and the U.S. Military favor

Austin, TX – November 12, 2012 – Want sunglasses that are standard issue to the U.S. Military and favorites of celebrities like Johnny Depp, Jon Hamm, Tom Selleck, and others? Well today, the eyewear specialists at FramesDirect.com introduced their new line of Randolph Engineering Sunglasses at www.framesdirect.com.

Randolph Engineering Aviator - Skull Temples Sunglasses

Randolph Engineering Aviator Skull Temples Sunglasses

Randolph Engineering Sunglasses are made in Randolph, MA using the finest raw materials in the world and over 200, mostly by hand, production steps in order to meet the exacting standards of military requirements,” states optometrist and FramesDirect.com Co-founder, Dr. Guy Hodgson. “We only purchase brands we believe in and with their extensive, quality testing, unique styles and popularity, we are proud to offer Randolph Engineering Sunglasses to our customers.”

Why Choose Randolph Engineering Sunglasses?

  • Get authentic, American-made sunglasses.

Since 1982, these sunglasses have been authentic, standard issue equipment to the U.S. Military and Air Forces worldwide.

  • Relax with high-quality standards.

At Randolph Engineering, it takes more than two weeks to produce one pair of Randolph Sunglasses. They guarantee the soldier joints of all their sunglasses for life and offer an Equipment Maintenance Kit with every pair.

  • Wear sunglasses with celebrity appeal.

Randolph Sunglasses have a classic style that always stays in fashion. They are often featured in television shows and movies and have a large, celebrity following.

  • Create a custom, unique look.

Randolph Sunglasses include seven styles with over 500 options of temples, frame colors and lenses for a customized look unavailable with other brands.

“Now, anyone can get customized, high-quality Randolph Engineering Sunglasses from the comfort of home,” states Jared Tanner, FramesDirect.com Director of Marketing. “This new line helps us continue our goal of providing customers with excellent service and fair prices on the best and authentic eyewear-brands available.”

To see all seven styles of Randolph Engineering Sunglasses, visit https://www.framesdirect.com/framesfc/Randolph_Engineering-lhsb-slb-l.html.

About FramesDirect.com
Founded by Drs. Guy Hodgson and Dhavid Cooper in 1996, FramesDirect.com is an Austin, Texas-based eyewear company that operates on the following core principles: 1) Excellent customer service, 2) Use only the highest quality lenses, 3) Provide the best selection of authentic name brand eyewear, 4) Sell eyewear at a fair price without sacrificing quality. These principals have made FramesDirect.com one of the most successful online eyewear companies in the world with over one million customers. Find out more at FramesDirect.com and The Eye Zone, the company’s official blog at framesdirectblog.com. For more information on prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses, please visit www.framesdirect.com, or call one of our expert opticians at 1-800-248-9427.

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First Virtual Optical Store Serves Military Personnel

AFEyewear.com, the military division of FramesDirect.com (the World’s Largest Online Optical Store), will unveil the first Virtual Eyewear Store at Goodfellow Air Force Base on March 24, 2010.

San Angelo, TX, March 8, 2010 — In 2009 Armed Forces Eyewear was asked to address the long-standing requests for enhancements to the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) eyewear benefit from advocacy groups to a Pentagon-level panel. The main issue on the table was that military individuals around the world did not have easy access to obtain eyewear, especially while serving in theatre arenas.

With the support of AAFES, AFEyewear.com provided electronic access to AAFES beneficiaries through a customized and exclusive optical website, www.afeyewear.com, allowing military personnel easy access worldwide to over 100,000 prescription and sunglass products via the internet. Immediate response was phenomenal, and service members around the world were able to get replacement eyewear and contact lenses shipped directly from the US, despite the fact that no optical facility was nearby.

Next, the game-changing enterprise was asked to convert FramesDirect.com‘s patented FrameFinder TryOn technology and biometric algorithm into a self-service unit. The result is a patented virtual try-on system that allows patients to take their own picture, try on eyeglasses and sunglasses, and purchase eyewear securely over the internet in one seamless process. The virtual try-on system gives patients the experience of a traditional brick-and-mortar eyewear store, but can be transported to any location in the world. For the rollout and proof-of-concept test in just a few weeks, an eyewear consultant will be available to address individual questions and evaluate this concept for US Military.

“Military members, retirees, and their families in far-flung corners of the globe may soon have access to outstanding vision support thanks to this cutting-edge effort. The Virtual Eyewear Store unveiling at Goodfellow AFB opens a whole new era and beneficiary domain,” says Lt Col Ric Peterson, AAFES Healthcare, Professional Services Group, Headquarters AAFES.

The first prototype version will be placed in the AAFES Mall on Goodfellow Air Force Base. Not wasting any time, AFEyewear.com is already working on a second prototype version – a completely standalone unit with an all-in-one integrated design. Additionally, it will incorporate two-way video conferencing allowing those in the military community to interact with live customer support, receive optical guidance in frame selection, and get help with prescription lens ordering from customer service personnel in Houston, TX.

Goodfellow AFB serves as the pilot site for this project, and success in this location could lead to the implementation of additional kiosks in military installations worldwide.


AFEyewear.com is an online optical retailer for active duty and retired military personnel, as well as dependents. The site offers thousands of name brand eyeglasses, sunglasses, prescription sunglasses, and contact lenses at special military discount prices. They also offer a streamlined ordering process, a prescription lens guarantee and dependable customer service.