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.

 

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