Probably the most recognizable sunglasses on the market – even after nearly 80 years – the Aviators weren’t even called that at first, although they should have been as they were designed for pilots. test.
These brave men tasked in the early years of the 20th century with seeing how high and how far newly designed planes could take them wore goggles encased in fur-lined leather hoods. But removing even this limited protection at altitude risked serious eye injuries. That’s what decorated American aviator John McCready saw in 1929 when his friend Shorty Shroeder momentarily took off his glasses to try to cope with the glare and suffered severe eye damage.
McCready commissioned the progressive New York optical company Bausch & Lomb, founded in 1853, to design eyewear capable of filtering out the dazzling light of high altitudes.
By 1936 the prototype was ready, looking much like the Aviator today – a light, delicate frame enclosing large teardrop-shaped green lenses.
It was a classic marriage of form following function – with the large lenses allowing early pilots to look at their controls without removing their goggles. By 1938 the frame – which was originally plastic – had been changed to metal and they were patented with the literal name Ray-Ban Aviator. By the late 1930s they were marketed to sportspeople as a premium product and with Bausch & Lomb’s “scientific glare protection”.
The company created the Ray-Ban Shooter with either green or yellow lenses – the yellow lenses were supposed to minimize haze; and the Ray-Ban Outdoorsman offered the option of classic aviators but with leather overlay on the top bar and eyeglass temple tips.
But it was the classic aviators that captured the imagination: being linked to the pilots gave the design a glamorous allure from the start, which shows no signs of aging. The frames are a favorite of Hollywood actors, including Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston.