The Ray-Ban Sunglasses: Stylish Eyewear

Ideati per garantire la protezione dei piloti militari, gli occhiali da sole Ray-Ban sono rapidamente entrati a far parte della cultura popolare. Combinano stile e funzionalità, conferendo a chi li indossa una personalità unica.

Molly Malcolm

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Sunglasses are an ancient idea, but a modern fashion phenomenon. Like other premium brands, Ray-Bans are worn as much for their stylish look as the practical protection they offer from the sun. A pair of these iconic American shades can cost you anything from a couple of hundred to over three thousand dollars.

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The earliest sunglasses were created for snow blindness. In ancient times, the Inuit, an indigenous people of the Arctic region, wore goggles made of driftwood, bone or walrus ivory with slits cut into them to protect their eyes. In the 12th century, Chinese opticians made their own sunglasses using the gemstone smoky quartz


The story of modern sunglasses begins in the United States. Founded in Rochester, New York in 1853, Bausch & Lomb made precision optical equipment, including eye glasses, telescopes and camera lenses. As pilots were vulnerable to the glare of sunlight, the company became a trusted supplier to the US Air Force. As technology improved, and planes flew higher, the need for eye protection became more urgent.


In 1929, Bausch & Lomb began work with veteran pilot John A. Macready to create sunglasses that reduced the dazzle of the stratosphere, and prevented the pilot’s goggles from misting up. These anti-glare glasses had plastic framesand green lenses the shape of teardrops. In 1937, they went on sale to civilians under the name ‘Ray-Ban sunglasses’, so-called because they reduced UV and infra-red rays harmful to the eyes. In 1939, relaunched with a metal frame, they were named the Ray-Ban Aviator. 


Almost unheard of until the 1920s, by the late 1930s sunglasses were a must-have product. In the US, around twenty million pairs were sold in 1937. Ray-Ban looked for celebrity endorsement, and Hollywood was quick to bring their style to the big-screen. The music world quickly followed. The Ray-Ban Wayfarer with its trapezoidal lenses and shiny rivets, was introduced in 1952 and worn by high-profile figures like James Dean, Audrey Hepburn and John F. Kennedy. The Ray-Ban Clubmaster, launched in the 1980s, was another bestseller; these drew on a 1950s intellectual look affiliated with cultural rebels such as Malcolm X. The 1990s brought wraparound styles, and further luxury models followed.


In 1999, Bausch & Lomb sold Ray-Ban to Italy’s Luxottica Group, which launched a brand-new Wayfarer model two years on. However, the original Aviator, Wayfarer and Clubmaster remained in high demand, and continue to shape popular culture today. Enigmatic yet assertive, they can conceal, reveal or transform character: stylish rebel, high-flyer, cool cat, intrepid explorer, good cop or bad cop; wear a pair of Ray-Bans, and choose your own identity.  

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Questo articolo appartiene al numero July 2024 della rivista Speak Up.

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