Thursday, December 20, 2012

Aviator Sunglasses: Style and Substance for 80 Years

Aviators sunglasses are one of the hottest trends going now, and they have been so for years. A-list celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Tom Cruise look effortlessly cool in their Ray-Bans, while everyday folk can emulate that same designer style with more down-to-earth prices thanks to wholesale sunglasses suppliers. Wherever you’re going, aviators are timeless, classic and uber-hip, but there is so much more to those frames than meets the eye. That stand-out shape (which flatters nearly everyone) might surprise you with the substance of its history. 

The 1930s and Airborne Aviators
It might seem obvious that these on-trend sunglasses got both their start and their name from airplane pilots. In the mid-1930s these “pilot’s glasses” were designed by Ray-Ban in collaboration with John Macready, a fellow pilot and friend of Shorty Schroeder. Schroeder in 1920 took his plane above 33,000 feet, a daring and risky act, because shortly thereafter his goggles fogged up. Unable to see, he was forced to remove them, which turned a bad situation worse: his eyes froze over.
Macready was there to help pull his friend out of the cockpit after that nightmare experience which, thankfully, Schroeder survived; then about a month later Macready, too, pushed the envelop – and his plane – by seeking yet higher altitude to break his friend’s record, but while he soared in the upper atmosphere, the brightness nearly blinded him, his aviator goggles not being dark enough.
Pilots and stylistas alike today can thank Macready for his collaboration with Bausch and Lomb’s Ray-Band brand, for he is credited with the “shape, tint and fit” of aviator sunglasses, which were originally marketed toward golfers and fishermen. Today we recognize aviators on sight, thanks to their teardrop shape and dark, often reflective lenses; the design features most essential to sportsmen at that time, though, included the large area of the lenses (two to three times as large as the eyeball), the ultra-thin frames, the double nose bridge and the hooking earpieces. In toto, the aviators were designed to block out as much light as possible from the human eye from any angle.

MacArthur and World War II

Ray-Ban aviators today are for most an indulgence, and at the time of their widespread release the same was true. Imagine a time when sunglasses set you back one quarter; Ray-Ban aviators sold for a few dollars apiece.

Adopted during World War II by the likes of General Douglas MacArthur, whose widespread photograph in them after landing in the Philippines made the style well-known, for some time aviator sunglasses were the domain of men, even being distributed to the French Army.

The 1960s to Today

And since MacArthur donning them wasn’t exactly an endorsement for coolness, it would be perhaps another 20 or so years before aviators were worn and recognized for fashion reasons, but Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, who were then members of the incredibly popular Beatles, as well as Elvis, certainly helped foster the trend. Rhinestones and colored frames brought women on board in the 1970s, with such icons as Gloria Steinem donning aviators.

The 1980s saw Tom Cruise in Top Gun, a film which is credited with a 40 percent rise in sales of Ray-Ban aviators in the months after the movie’s release, and the style maintained popularity throughout the 90s and especially in the 2000s through today, thanks to paparazzi capturing our favorite celebrities’ every fashion choice, which often includes aviator sunglasses.

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