History of Rayban

History of Rayban Glasses and Aviator Glasses

If you ever had any doubt over the power of Hollywood marketing, then you should know that Tom Cruise raised the sales of Rayban sunglasses by over 40%. He also managed to do this not once, but twice. Did you also know this is just one fascinating fact in the history of this iconic brand?

There have been many twists and turns in the Rayban story. Read on as we discuss the history of Rayban and its famous Aviator glasses. 

Bausch and Lomb

The history of Rayban glasses starts in Westchester, New York. John Bausch and Henry Lomb were two german immigrants looking to find their fortune. In 1853 they set about building a workshop that would create monocles, later expanding to rubber eyewear. 

Developments during the American Civil war benefited the fledgling company greatly. As the Union blockade caused prices to rise, demand rose for the vulcanized rubber spectacles made by the company. After, they were able to expand into lenses for all types of applications such as projectors, photography, and telescopes. 

At the start of the 20th century, the expansion of the US military saw Bausch and Lomb awarded several high-profile government contracts. These were mainly to provide optical equipment to US forces. 

Bausch and Lomb became even more important during the world wars. As most optical equipment at this time was made in Germany, its position as an enemy meant that the work of Bausch and Lomb suddenly became vital to the effort. 

History of Rayban Aviator

By 1929, aviation had quite literally, taken off. Flight technology was advancing, pushing humans higher and faster than they had ever gone before. Aside from the optical equipment needed to do this, more practical lens solutions for pilots were also needed. 

It was at this time that Colonel John A Macready of the US Air Force would step to the forefront. He aimed to find a solution to the headaches, altitude sickness, and loss of visibility caused by the glare of the sun when flying. His desire for a solution would see the first-ever Rayban Aviator come to fruition when he approached Bausch and Lomb to assist.

What Are Aviator Glasses?

At first, the Aviator was a goggle that strapped to the face. By 1936 they had been redesigned and were ready for civilian release. The original version had a lightweight, plastic frame with slimmer arms than the design released for the military. 

These early models were characterized by a green glass lens. Know as G15 lenses, they were designed to reduce glare from the sun without any loss of vision. The iconic shape was a necessity more than aesthetic, as it stopped glare from any angle.  

There was a reason these initial sunglasses were anti-glare rather than polarized. Polarized glass could block reflection entirely, and this was vital for spotting enemy aircraft. 

Cultural Icon

In the early days, the glasses were advertised as having “real scientific glare protection”. Adverts aimed at the civilian population targeted those interested in sports, such as golf, fishing, and shooting.

Rayban really entered public consciousness in World War II. As well as being a standard military issue item, a poster showing General Douglas Macarthur landing on a beach in them was a great advert for the company. During the conflict, a redesign known as the “Comfortable Cable” was also introduced. 

Post War Years

After the war, military surplus gear flooded domestic markets. Aviators surged in popularity for a number of reasons. They had connotations linked to heroes of the war and were also an item worn in far-flung, exotic places. 

This was capitalized upon with an astute advertising campaign, embracing everything from cinema to politics. Che Guevara featured in an early ad campaign for the company. Hollywood stars such as Robert Redford made them a staple fashion look. 


One variation of the Aviator is the Wayfarer. In 1952, Rayban broke from tradition and introduced a set of glasses with a hard plastic frame. With a more squared style, these glasses became known as the Wayfarer. 

The bright plastic of the Wayfarer fit perfectly into the aesthetic of the sixties generation, crossing cultural and socio-economic boundaries. It could be seen on everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Bob Dylan. 

In the seventies, a dip in popularity and sales for both designs came. However, a reprive was on its way. The cool glamour of the eighties was just around the corner, and Rayban would capitalize.

1982 saw Rayban sign a contract that would see their glasses in a myriad of Hollywood movies and television shows. This cemented them in the public consciousness just as the MTV generation was taking off. From Miami Vice to Michael Jackson, these items became synonymous with a whole decade of pop culture. 

Future of Rayban

In 1999 the global eyewear division of Bausch and Lomb, which included the Rayban brand, was acquired by the Luxottica Group for $640 million USD. This brought them under the umbrella of the largest company in the eyewear industry. 

Most exciting in this new age was the development of Rayban Stories. These were a pair of smart glasses built in conjunction with social media giant Facebook. Unfortunately, their release was marred by some controversy regarding the Facebook company’s attitude to privacy. 

Each pair of glasses was packed with features. These included a set of tiny micro speakers for listening to calls and music. To complement, they had three microphones, a processor, and a touchpad built into the frame. 

Choosing the Right Design

Now you know the history of Rayban, you will know how many variations of Aviator and Wayfarers there have been. This means it can be hard to choose the right look for you. Visit a store and speak with professionals that will help you get the perfect design. 

Your first stop in the Houston area should be EZ Eyewear. We provide eye care services and products for all your needs. Click here to book an appointment and let us deal with your eyecare needs starting today.