As unbelievable as it might sound, the world famous Ray-Ban brand of sunglasses is around 80 years old right now.
While they are currently seen as being incredibly trendy and timeless fashion accessories, behind the tinted shades is a long and fascinating story that deserves to be told.
Aviators and the Beginning of Ray-Ban
We need to go back to the 1930s to discover how and when Ray-Ban sunglasses were first introduced to the world. In this period there were a lot of exciting advances being made in the world of aviation.
However, the fact that planes were now going higher than ever before was leading to problems for the pilots. The strong glare from the sun at high altitude was beginning to make it difficult for aviators, who complained about headaches and sickness.
American medical equipment company Bausch & Lomb was asked by the US Army Service to create an anti-glare device. Little did anyone realise at the time what a spectacular fashion revolution this move would later trigger.
Before long, this new creation would be worn by the world’s most famous celebrities and would be sought after by fashion-conscious folk all over the world.
The First Models
It was in 1936 that the very first Ray-Ban prototype was created. It was called the Anti-Glare and had green lenses sitting in plastic frames.
After proving that the model was highly effective in reducing glare without affecting visibility, the firm took out a patent on their design in 1937.
Before long, the glasses became known as Ray-Bay Aviator and had a metal frame replacing the earlier plastic frame. Within a couple of years the target market had grown from just airplane pilots to cover outdoor sports enthusiasts such as hunters and fishermen.
To make their glasses more appealing to this new group of customers a new range called the Outdoorsman was launched. The changes introduced for this model included a sweat bar to keep perspiration from entering into the sports lover’s eyes.
Later Styles and Celebrity Endorsement
The manufacturer continued to bring out new models over the next few decades. These included gradient lenses and the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer model.
Before long, the appeal of these exciting new glasses spread out over pretty much all of the world. This was partly fuelled by the way in which film stars and other celebrities fell in love with the style.
One of the earliest examples of this celebrity endorsement came in the 50s, when James Dean wore Ray-Bans in the iconic Rebel Without a Cause movie. One of the new, modern styles to come in during the 1960s was the wrap-around model that Peter Fonda wore in Easy Rider.
By now, the name Ray-Bans had become synonymous with style and glamour. Putting on these fashionable shades could make anyone feel instantly more trendy and cool.
As we fast forward to the 1970s and 1980s we can see Ray-Ban models appearing in hugely popular movies such as Magnum Force, The Blues Brothers and Top Gun. Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe and music celebrities like Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison also helped to fuel the public’s love for this brand by wearing them in public regularly.
Struggles and Re-emergence
Of course, it is extremely difficult for any fashion brand to remain at the top of the industry all the time. The late 70s and early 80s were a tough time for the brand, as rivals started to take a greater share of the market and their new models failed to catch the public’s imagination.
However, the classic sunglasses brand was soon back on top again. Newer designs and the likes of prescription Ray-Ban glasses have helped to introduce the brand to yet another generation of fashion-lovers.
Clever marketing campaigns and the fact that the name continues to be seen as the epitome of cool mean that the appeal of Ray-Bans is pretty much as strong as ever before. It is also worth bearing in mind that the brand has managed to maintain an exclusive and powerful feel to it over all these years.
The original owners Bausch & Lomb sold out to Italian firm Luxottica in the last 20th century but the timeless appeal of Ray-Ban continues to charm people all over the world.
These days, the sunglasses made under the Ray-Ban brand come in a huge variety of styles. They continually to be worn by stars and by ordinary people alike, while if you pay attention you can often see them appear in movies and on TV shows.