Sunglasses through the ages

Monday, 25 July 2016
Sunglasses through the ages

With all the glitz and the glamour of designer labels and high-profile celebrities, a lot of people have actually lost sight of why sunglasses were invented and of their significance in keeping our eyes safe from harm. But don’t worry, at Feel Good Contact Lenses, we never take our eyes off the prize. Which for us happens to be looking after eyes!

As a retailer of sunglasses and contact lenses online, we thought we’d take a closer look at the history of these magnificent shades and how they grew into the sunnies that we know today. 

The Inuit Years

To start at the beginning, we must go all the way back to prehistoric times and to the lifestyle of the Inuit peoples. While their version of sunglasses was much more basic than the type we enjoy today, the Inuit people needed a way to block out the rays of the sun to avoid damage to their eyes. They achieved this, in part, by wearing flattened walrus ivory glasses that had thin slits carved into them to allow them to see. Naturally, this offered zero UV protection, however the glasses did work to reduce the exposure of eyes to the sunlight. 

Nero and the Romans

Rumour has it that the Roman emperor Nero (37 AD-68 AD) used to wear emeralds over his eyes whilst enjoying his favourite pastime – gladiator fights. Okay, so they’re not really sunglasses in the classic sense of the word… But it was an attempt to use eyewear to block out the sun. Although this actually would have had a mirror effect for the emperor…

Chinese Judges

There are records of sunglasses being used by Chinese judges in the 12th century as a way of hiding their expressions from the congregations in court. These sunglasses were made from flat planes of smoky quartz, which did nothing to correct eyesight, but did function as a way of protecting eyes from glare. 

The Introduction of the Tinted Lens

While James Ayscough had no intention to protect eyes from UV when he began experimenting with spectacles during the mid-1700s, he was responsible for introducing tinted lenses into the eyewear world. 


The Golden Age of Hollywood

The time of the celebrity had finally arrived, and with it, of course, came the harsh realities of this glamorous life. Movie stars and singers still wanted to retain a level of anonymity whilst out and about, and so they began to wear glasses with dark lenses as a way to avoid any unwanted attention. 

Sam Foster – The Inventor of the Modern Sunglasses

Even though they have a slightly shaded history and have been revolutionised multiple times throughout the twentieth century, it wouldn’t seem too crazy to hand the credit for inventing modern sunglasses to Sam Foster. It was 1929 when Sam set up shop in Atlantic City, selling low-cost celluloid sunglasses under the company name Foster Grant. The trend spread like wildfire, and it has been reported that in 1937 the number of sunglasses sales in the USA reached 20 million. 

Enter Ray-Ban


1937 was also a landmark year, as it marked the founding of Ray-Ban, by eye health product manufacturer, Bausch & Lomb. That year was also significant as one of the most recognizable and desirable types of sunglasses in history was invented by the brand, the Aviator. Initially made to help pilots in the US Air Force and the negative effects of UV light when flying so close to the sun, the sunglasses found their place in history. Renewed interest and the height of their popularity came in the 1980s, due in no small part to the 1986 action classic, Top Gun. The Aviator appears to be timeless, so we’ll just have to wait and see…
Ray-Ban were also responsible for the creation of some of the other most popular types of sunglasses that we still wear today. Inventing the Wayfarer in 1956 proved to be another gem for the company that had now become synonymous with the famous Aviator. In the 60s, the company, along with a number of other brands, developed their own line of the Clubmaster sunglasses. The following decades would see them have their hand in a number of other styles, all the while retaining a place as one of the world’s most renowned makers of sunglasses.


It's Not the End 

From Inuits and Chinese judges, to Aviators and Wayfarers, it’s been a long journey for sunglasses, and they don’t seem like slowing down anytime soon. Innovation within the industry is a constant presence and always brings with it the latest styles. That’s why at Feel Good Contact Lenses, we’re over the moon with our range and are excited about offering some of the most in-demand sunglasses on the market and a wide range of timeless classics! Everything from Ray-Ban to Linda Farrow, and Gucci to Police, can be found at Feelgoodcontacts.com, and is available at the lowest price of any retailer in the UK. 

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