Aside from being a fashion accessory, a pair of sunglasses is also essential in protecting your eyes against the harsh rays of the sun. However, have you ever wondered where sunglasses came from and what was their original use?
It is widely accepted that sunglasses were first used in the 1300s by Chinese judges for the sole purpose of hiding their emotions. Unlike today's sunglasses with all its protective properties, sunglasses then were made of coloured quartz and had zero protection against the sun. They weren't even meant to be worn outside, let alone for fashion purposes. It wasn't until the 1700s when a man by the name of James Ayscough figured out that changing the lens' colours helped reduce lights and glare.
Let’s delve deeper into the history of sunglasses.
The Rise of the Sunglasses - 1900s
It was only in the 1900s when sunglasses became well-known for their protective properties, which were well recognized by the American military. They offered sunglasses for their servicemen and women. Around 1929, Foster Grant Company was founded and, thanks to them, the popularity of sunglasses shot through the roof.
The Improvement of the Lens - 1930s
The sunglasses' lens was only seriously improved in the 1930s after a team of physicists and opticians under Bausch & Lomb worked together. The Army Air Corps hired them to develop better lenses. This project was done to aid fighter pilots with the glare that they experience during their job at extremely high altitudes. The final product? A set of a dark green lens named the G15 lens was born.
Polaroid Filters and Aviators - 1936
Even if you’ve never owned a pair of sunglasses, you know about the popularity of Ray-Ban in the eyewear industry. This very famous company was known in 1936 for its introduction of Polaroid filters to their lenses. It was also at this time when they introduced the world-famous aviator-style frames. Although initially meant for pilot use, it was made available to the public a year later.
Sunglasses for Fashion - 1960s
Up to this point, a pair of sunglasses was explicitly meant to protect the wearer from the sun's harmful rays. Although they're still meant for that, Foster brought new light to the glasses. In the 1960s, Foster introduced sunglasses as a piece of fashion. Up to today, we can see sunglasses everywhere on the runway and evolving in the fashion world. Whether for the goal of protecting the eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays or not, sunglasses are now mainly worn as a fashion statement.
Pair fashion with utility, and you've got yourself a booming industry. As of today, the sunglasses industry has grown more than ten times in size since the 1900s, offering sunglasses in a wide range of shapes, styles, materials and protection.
From protection against both UVA and UVB to eliminating glare, to now becoming a staple fashion accessory, the evolution of sunglasses has come a long way. These days, sunglasses come in all sorts of shades—blue, purple, orange, black, green, you name it. They’re also made in a variety of materials such plastic, acetate, metal, stainless steel, wood, bamboo, etc…
With a wide range of options to choose your sunglasses from, there’s no need to compromise with style, quality, protection or materials. You can now own a pair of fashion-forward sunglasses with the best protection possible and made from eco-friendly and sustainably sourced materials!