Iconic styles of sunglasses

Monday, 11 July 2016
Iconic styles of sunglasses

Sunglasses are, and always will be, the perfect accessory to define your style. As the team at Feel Good Contact Lenses spend this next month appreciating the role of the eyewear in the fashion scene and in eye health, we thought we’d take a look at some of the most iconic shapes of sunglasses to have come to prominence over the last 80 or 90 years.


Why not start off with possibly the most famous and most glamorous pairs of sunglasses in history – the Aviators. Originally created in the 1930s by eye health giant Bausch & Lomb to address the growing eyewear needs of pilots – who were now flying to greater heights than ever before. To combat the nausea and headaches that pilots in the US Air Force had been suffering from, Bausch & Lomb created a prototype with a larger metal frame and oversized lenses that worked to block glare from the sun. And so in 1937, the Ray-Ban Aviator was born.  

Indeed, an iconic photo was taken of US Army General, Douglas MacArthur, wearing a pair of Aviator sunglasses when landing on the beach in the Philippines in 1944. Their reputation continued to grow steadily in the 40s and 50s, however soared to new heights amidst the 60s and the disco scene of the 70s. 

With a sharp decline during the early 1980s, B&L saved the Ray-Ban Aviator with their signing of a multi-million-dollar deal for product placement. As a result, the role of the Aviator in the smash-hit Top Gun thrust the sunglasses back into the limelight. With Tom Cruise as the poster-boy, the sunglasses were soon on everyone’s must-have list.

Despite a slight fade in the 90s, Aviators remain one of the most well-known and popular sunglasses shapes in the world today – if not THE most. While the Ray-Ban Aviators are the original model, and still prominent today, a number of other companies have developed their own editions. 



Surely one of the first types that comes to mind when thinking about sunglasses, Wayfarers are a mainstay in eyewear fashion. Unsurprisingly, Wayfarers are a proud creation of industry-leaders, Ray-Ban. Developed in 1956, and patented by parent company, Bausch & Lomb, the Wayfarers enjoyed a successful start to life on the sunglasses scene, and are even pointed to as the main contributor to the industry moving from metal frames to plastic designs. The sunglasses played a prominent role in the 50s and 60s, however soon saw a fade into near-obscurity over the next decade. 

It wasn’t until the mid-80s when the sunglasses really began to take off again. Just like with Aviators, Bausch & Lomb signed a product-placement agreement that led to the sunglasses enjoying a number of high profile appearances. Such TV and movie outings included Miami Vice and The Breakfast Club, as well as an appearance on Ray-Ban favourite Tom Cruise in the 1983 classic, Risky Business. 

Wayfarers were also to be seen on the big screen in the early 90s in the cult-classic, Reservoir Dogs (1992), on the group’s leader Mr. White. 

A gradual fade in popularity after the mid-90s has been recovered from since the mid-2000s, and Wayfarers seem to be here for the long haul. 



1947 saw the launch of browline glasses for those that required corrective eyewear. This famous option on the glasses market went on to be popularized in the 1950s and 60s when worn by iconic figures such as James Dean and Malcolm X. 

Indeed, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Ray-Ban adopted the browline glasses shape for their new line of sunglasses. The Clubmaster was born from the renewed prominence of browline glasses, which was as a result of Bruce Willis donning the 1947 model on the TV show Moonlighting.  

Ray-Ban dominated the sunglasses scene during the 80s, with their Wayfarers, Aviators, and now the Clubmasters, taking the top three spots in best-selling sunglasses of the decade. 

As is par for the course with Ray-Ban sunglasses, the Clubmasters enjoyed a fair few outings in some of the most popular movies of the 80’s and 90’s. The movie Malcolm X saw Denzel Washington wear the shades to play the legendary movement activist himself.  Notably, Reservoir Dogs showcased a Ray-Ban model again, as these sunglasses can be seen on Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange.



While they are now available as a women’s AND a men’s fashion option, cat eye sunglasses came about as a piece of eyewear that accentuated feminine style. The feline look is produced by their high raised edges, and has been a striking feature since their creation. 

Initial prominence was enjoyed by the sunglasses in the 50s and 60s. Icons of this time include Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, who were regular wearers of the sunglasses shape. 

While they never again quite managed to match the success they enjoyed in this era, cat eye sunglasses are still a popular choice today, and are widely appreciated for their strong fashion statement and, appropriately, their retro look.  

So there you have it, our round-up of some of the most iconic pairs of sunglasses to ever grace the fashion scene. Our impressive selection of sunglasses is a testament to that! The last century has really come up with some innovative and industry-changing designs, and at Feel Good Contact Lenses we can’t wait to see what’s next!
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