A brief history of sunglasses

In case you didn’t know Nero (yes, the Roman emperor) and you have something in common; well, you do – both of you love sunglasses… that is, he used to love them, and you still do. How’s that possible? Find out below.

A little intro

We’ve all been wearing sunglasses and have considered them an essential accessory for as long as we have without ever wondering when was it that the sunnies actually came about and gained the status that they have is kind of neglectful on our part. But, that’s about to change. In doing our fashion homework (one of many, really), digging through fashion history and discovering some amazing aspects of it, we’ve come across a few very engaging information about sunglasses that we believe you’ll love to learn about.

So, if you’ve ever had a pair (or a dozen) of sunnies and have worn them as a statement piece (or used them to hide those dark under-eye tequila bags from last night), you’ll love to read the following.

The evolution

Prehistoric times:

Inuit people were known to wear flattened walrus ivory shades that pretty much resembled what we today call “glasses”. They would use them as a cover, to block damaging sunrays; the slits they looked through were narrow and slim. This protective use of sunglasses is present today as well, and the importance of winter eye protection cannot be overstated.

It is also said that the Roman emperor Nero wore a similar kind of glasses to those of Inuit people and that he loved watching gladiator fights with emeralds. These, however, appear to have worked more like mirrors than anything else. In the 12th-century China, flat panes of smoky quartz were used as the main material for making sunglasses whose purpose was twofold: a) they protected from the glare b) they were worn to conceal examiner’s facial expressions while questioning witnesses at Chinese courts.

Also check- Polarized Baseball Sunglasses

Hollywood and the early 1900s:

In the 1900s, sunglasses became the real hit, especially among movie stars. They would wear them to hide their red eyes from spending hours filming under powerful arc lamps and to avoid being recognized by the paparazzi and fans.

Going mainstream in the 1920s and 1930s:

In 1929, Sam Foster pioneered selling of low-priced mass-produced sunglasses, gaining consumers all over Atlantic City, N.J. In 1936, polarized sunglasses became very popular, especially after Edwin H. Land patented sunglasses which are made of Polaroid filter. It wasn’t long before Life magazine featured sunglasses, calling them “New fad for wear on city streets…a favorite affectation of thousands of women all over the U.S.”

Cat Eye and the 1950s:

The cat eye style was everything in the 50s; beauty and film icons like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn wore them with a religious commitment. The Cat Eye even extended to the 1960s and was loved by both celebrities and women. We do all remember Breakfast at Tiffany’s, don’t we?

The bigger the better in the 1960s:

Huge, bug-eyed sunglasses in a variety of shapes (the hottest were circle and square shaped ones) were the dominant eyewear fashion of the ‘60s, together with tie-dye, mod patterns and flared jeans. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (Jackie O) is remembered by wearing her statement shades everywhere. Oh, and – the Lennons, obviously. We mustn’t forget the Lennons.

Flower Child vibes in the 1970s:

Everything was laid-back then, sunglasses included. They were plastic, big, wire, sometimes even rimless. Fading lenses were very popular as well, especially after embraced by Jane Fonda in Klute and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall.

The plastic 1980s:

The favorite fashion decade of most designers, the ‘80s encouraged women to get even louder with their fashion choices as well as with their sunnies. Sunglasses they wore were often colorful and made of plastic. Even Princess Diana followed the trend and wore her big, white sunglasses while Molly Ringwald wore her red pair in Pretty in Pink.

Small frames of the 1990s:

From huge to small, sunnies suddenly got a weird, tiny shape. The frame was first pioneered by shows like Friends and pop stars like Britney. Everyone wore them, no matter how unflattering they were.

The diversity of 2004 – onwards:

Not much has been happening between the ‘90s and mid-2000. In a very rotating fashion, sunnies evolved from being staple pieces to being a fashion norm. Everyone started wearing what they liked, and what suited their face shape best. Pilot Ray Ban glasses became insanely popular and turned into a go-to for every occasion. Futuristic shapes have been growing in popularity in the last few years as well, and we did see a lot of comeback of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s sunglass designs and models around.

The truth is, everyone’s wearing anything these days. And we love it.