Did you know, Tom Cruise in Risky Business single-handedly raised the sale of Ray-Bans by 50%? Not only that, Top Gun brought that number up a further 40%.
Ray-Ban had some pretty humble roots, though they are now universally regarded as a ‘must-have’ in fashionable eyewear.
But where did they actually get their start? And how did they go from a military commissioned project to worldwide renown?
Keep reading to find out everything you ever needed to know about the history of Ray-Ban Sunglasses.
A Legacy Is Born
The classic Ray-Ban Aviator was first introduced in 1936, at a point where developments in technology meant humanity could soar higher than ever before.
It was during the 1920s that we saw the first planes designed for passengers. At first, these planes were slow and couldn’t fly that high. As the aviation sector boomed, so did the skills of their pilots and the technology they used.
Pilots discovered that the glare of light above the clouds made visibility dangerously reduced. In turn, this could cause blinding headaches and even potentially fatal altitude sickness.
Colonel John A Macready of the United States Army Air Corps rose to the occasion. He wanted to collaborate with Bausch & Lomb, a medical equipment company based in New York. They agreed and came up with what we now know as Ray-Ban Aviators.
How Ray-Bans Changed the Game
The first prototype in Ray-Ban history famously made use of anti-glare technology for its military operations. In these iterations, green lenses and plastic frames were used to reduce visual interference caused by infrared lights, or the sun’s UV rays. Hence the name “Ray-Ban.”
The famous teardrop shape, and the convex nature of their form, ensured maximum eye coverage and prevented light from obstructing a pilot’s vision from any angle.
Ray-Ban used anti-glare technology over polarization, as polarized lenses might affect a pilot’s ability to see glimmers of light off other planes.
Military and Public Use
Even during the war, the military continued to use Ray-Ban’s lens technology to their advantage. Ray-Ban altered their sunglasses to feature gradient mirror lenses, which further improved the pilots’ eye protection.
Ray-Ban’s continued to grow in popularity throughout the 30s and 40s. However, it wasn’t until an iconic photograph of General Douglas MacArthur debuted that they became standard military issue. This photo depicted MacArthur wearing the sunglasses in 1944 as he landed on a beach in the Philippines. Since then, Aviator sunglasses have become inexorably linked to a sense of courage and patriotism.
Post War Popularity
Although initially designed for military use, these glasses were indisputably fashionable. It didn’t take long for the rest of the world to notice.
Following the war, thousands of surplus military issue Aviators swiftly flooded the market. People from all walks of life embraced them as a fashion item. They were not only functional but undeniably stylish. They also added a much-needed touch of glamor to daily life after the grim reality of the war.
The public widely praised and adored pilots for their role in winning the war, and nothing depicted a hero more than Ray-Ban Aviators. The frames came to symbolize a lot more than just better vision – they were also emblematic of liberty and victory.
After seeing the popularity of their sunglasses among the general population, Ray-Ban began their mission for expansion.
Developing New Styles
While the company remained a popular fashion item for movie stars, the military, and the public, the eyewear brand saw a need to evolve with the changing cultural landscape of the 1960s. Ray-Ban expanded their inventory and made their sunglasses available to men and women of all ages during this decade.
They created two new designs for commercial use. First was the Meteor, which, like a meteorite, made an enormous impact on the fashion scene. The Meteor’s sharp and masculine form fit men’s fashion perfectly in the 1960s.
Cat-eye sunglasses became a popular women’s fashion trend in the 1960s, and Ray-Ban was quick to respond with their own version: the Ray-Ban Laramie.
In the 70s, Ray-Ban launched two new models to keep up with the changing styles of disco and sport. These were the Vagabond and Stateside, which were both made with plastic frames and mirror or standard lenses.
Celebrities and Ray-Ban Sunglasses
While still favored by the military and the police, Ray-Ban’s also made their way onto the red carpet. Celebrities like James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, and even Julia Roberts took to them for various looks.
In 1984, Michael Jackson, an icon of fashion, wore a pair of Ray-Bans to the Grammys. It’s not just who’s wearing the glasses, though. It’s about the impact that collaboration has on the market. Celebrities help, but promotion and partnership are what really sell.
Collaborations and Partnerships
With the dawn of the early 2000s (and the new millennium), entrepreneurs grew well-versed in the value of cooperation. Ray-Ban took advantage of these opportunities to expand its network through partnerships.
Mick Rock, James Murphy, and Johnny Marr were just some celebrities who partnered with the company. They wore upgraded versions of the Ray-Ban Wayfarers, making them as popular as when they were first brought to market.
Following the success of the Ray-Ban Wayfarer model, the company continued to power forward with the Remaster and Clubmaster models. The sales of these models only increased after collaborations with celebrities like Paolo Nutini and Ladyhawke.
No matter the year, no matter the model, Ray-Ban continues to lead the charge in eyewear trends, and if you have an independent, carefree personality, they may just be the shades for you.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
After dominating the market for eight long decades, it’s clear that Ray-Ban Sunglasses are here to stay. Sure, they had humble beginnings, shielding the eyes of intrepid pilots. Now they grace the faces of movie stars and celebrities and are recognizable across the globe.
They’re about quality, innovation, and everyday comfort. Ideals we represent in our own business. If you want to embrace some of the quintessentially cool essence that Ray-Ban inspires, why not head on over and see what we have for sale?