In the 12th century, Roman emperors would watch gladiators battle through flat, polished stones to decrease the sun’s brightness. In China, it was said that judges in Chinese courts wore flattened smokey quartz to decrease brightness but also to conceal their expressions when questioning witnesses. In the 1700s, tinted and coloured lens glasses first appeared in an attempt to rectify colour blindness. By the 1900s, they had become trendy, with performers and singers using shades to improve their appearance and protect their eyes. 

Since the turn of the twentieth century, the style and design of sunglasses have vastly expanded, resulting in several new types and brands. Along with the companies came the individuals who wore them, with particular personalities making the sunglasses they wore more renowned than they ever could have imagined. Take notes as we take a look at some of the most famous sunglasses throughout history. 

Persol 714s 

Giuseppe Ratti first designed persols in 1917 for pilots and sports drivers who wanted better eye protection without sacrificing quality or flair. These handmade sunglasses include the patented Meflecto technology, which enables them to conform to the distinctive characteristics of a person’s face.  

Steve McQueen, Ryan Gosling, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig, and George Clooney, to mention a few of the critically acclaimed that continued to carry the heritage of Giuseppe’s work throughout history. 

photography of man using tobacco

Ray-Ban Aviators 

Every living generation, from Presidents to movie stars, rock stars to artists, fashion designers to runway models, can recall having or wanting to buy a pair of these legendary sunglasses. The original Ray-Ban sunglasses were designed in 1937 by Bausch & Lomb for the U.S. Army Air Corp, which was seeking sunglasses to shield aviators from the sun’s destructive rays and, perhaps more crucially, sunglasses that would look good on the soldiers of the US Army Air Corp. However, appearance was not their only concern, as these sunglasses were the first in history to combine anti-glare lenses with frames made of incredibly lightweight gold-plated metal.  The U.S. Army Air Corps pilots immediately adopted the sunglasses, giving Ray-Bans the title “Aviator Glasses.” To appreciate the influence Ray-Ban had on the aviation business and the film industry, see Top Gun. 

Biggie’s Versace’s (Any of his favourites)

Born in Brooklyn in 1972, Christopher Wallace rose to fame with the early 1990s hip-hop single Ready To Die. Given his extravagant dress sense and larger-than-life demeanor, his sunglasses game was always on point. This Brooklyn gentleman’s swagger is primarily responsible for the bulk of contemporary eyewear designs. 

Possibly the most well-known pair of Versace sunglasses that Biggie wore, the Versace 424 frames feature an immediately recognizable set of inverted pyramids on the temples that create a connection to the renowned Medusa. In the One More Chance music video, he wore these frames for the throne moments. If you saw the most recent Biggie documentary on Netflix and are searching for vintage sunglasses to complete the look, you’ve come to the right place! They will soon be available at Eyeway. 

Sunglasses Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Ray-Ban Wayfarer 

In 1952, Ray-Ban moved away from conventional metal frames and introduced the ‘Ray-Ban Wayfarer‘, a hard plastic frame that immediately became a staple of American fashion and popular culture. Now regarded as a ground-breaking moment in eyewear design, the Wayfarer swiftly garnered favour among famous groups, but perhaps more crucially, they attracted to the general public, which included debutantes and beatniks. Ray-Ban Wayfarers were the preferred sunglasses of Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Roy Orbison, John Lennon, and countless typical American youths who simply wanted to appear cool on the beach throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Add legendary movie scenes: Tom Cruise – Risky Business, Dan Aykroyd – Blues Brothers, and Leonardo DiCaprio – Wolf of Wall St, and you may have the most iconic pair of sunglasses ever produced. 

Oakley Frogskins 

The first Frogskins were launched in over 50 colourways and sold for under $40 USD. They were the sunglasses that defined the 1980s and placed Oakley on the map, and they will continue to do so. In the middle of the 2000s, the legendary sunglasses were re-released to great success, and suddenly Generation Y had the chance to rep the brand in fresh and exciting colours and designs, aided by celebrity endorsements like Shaun White and Julian Wilson.