Although it may seem a very modern invention, the sunglasses have been around for centuries.
There are theories that place their appearance in the Roman Empire (quartz crystals were dyed for sun protection during performances) or Eskimo territories for over 2000 years. However, most studies place the origin of sunglasses in China in the 12th century or even earlier. Sunglasses were first made out of lenses that were flat panes of smoky quartz. These types of sunglasses could not correct vision, or protect from harmful UV rays, but did reduce glare. Chinese judges used the smoky quartz glasses to hide their facial expressions when they interrogated witnesses.
During the 15th century, the tinted windows were used by judges to conceal their facial expressions during court sessions.
Sunglasses did not undergo further changes until about the 18th century because of the work of James Ayscough. He experimented with tinted lenses in spectacles. Ayscough was steadfast in the belief that glasses tinted with a blue or green color could potentially correct specific vision problems but was not concerned with protecting the eyes from the sun’s rays.
Sunglasses underwent the change into the popular item they are today when Sam Foster introduced them to America in 1929. These sunglasses were designed to protect people’s eyes from the sun. Foster sold his sunglasses on the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Foster’s sunglasses were sold at Woolworth on the boardwalk.
In 1936, sunglasses became polarized when Edwin H. Land began using his patented Polaroid filter when making sunglasses. Around this time, even more Americans started buying sunglasses. Famous movie stars and musicians also began to wear sunglasses. They started to become not only a way to protect against sun glare, but also a way to be “cool.” Sunglasses became a cultural phenomenon, and some people wore them even when it wasn’t sunny, or when they were indoors.
In the 30’s, the U.S. army asked Bausch & Lomb the manufacture of glasses to protect the eyes of the pilots from the sun’s rays. So Ray-Ban was born in 1937, the first modern manufacturer of sunglasses and its first and legendary Aviator model, still fashionable today.
In the 50’s, the popular Ray-Ban Wayfarer were born, the first model with plastic frames, popularized by actors and actresses in Hollywood and later in the 80’s by pop music stars like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Blondie or Bob Dylan.
Today many sunglasses brands and models have expanded the fashion market but all with the same function: to protect our eyes in a stylish way.
Ray-Ban, Carrera, Emporio Armani, Paco Rabanne, … How to choose sunglasses depends on the personality and style of each person.
What is yours?