The history of sunglasses dates back to Ancient Rome, where sources say that Emperor Nero used polished gems to watch gladiator fights and in China where sunglasses started to be used in the 12th century. In China, sunglasses were used in court when interrogating witnesses in order to hide people’s expressions. The lenses were made out of smokey quartz. They did not have any technology to correct sight or to protect against harmful UV rays.
Experiments on tinted lenses began in the 18th century when James Ayscough thought that blue or green tinted lenses could improve vision problems. Back then, people were not concerned by the sun’s damaging effects. In the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, yellow (amber) and brown tinted glasses were prescribed to people with syphilis since they experienced sensitivity to light.
Sunglasses were initially sold off the Atlantic City boardwalk by Sam Foster. They quickly became a popular item among the rich and famous. Actors and actresses were quick to adopt the lenses as a means to protect their eyes from the near-blinding lights that were featured on movie sets of the time. Off the screen, they found the sunglasses useful for concealing their identities while out in public. Eventually, popularity of sunglasses increased through the general public, and people made use of the fashionable item for all types of recreation.
In 1937, when United States Air-Force pilots needed eye protection from the bright sun, they adopted the now-infamous Aviator style of sunglasses created by start-up company Ray-Ban. The Aviator glasses not only were protective against harmful ultra-violet rays, but quickly became a fashion staple during, and after the World War II era. Ray Ban wasn’t finished exclusively with the Aviator, they innovated unique plastic molding technology in the 50’s to manufacture the Wayfarer, their other iconic style. Plastic molding technology made manufacturing sunglasses easy and affordable, and allowed sunglasses to be reasonably priced and easy to access for the general public. Today, Aviators and Wayfarers are still popular and most sunglasses take inspiration from them.
Polarized sunglasses first became available in 1936, when Edwin H. Land began using his patented Polaroid filter when making sunglasses.
Since their invention, celebrities have always been on the fore-front of sunglass trends, and sunglasses have become synonymous with Hollywood actors and actresses. In the 60’s, Bob Dylan and Audrey Hepburn were among the early adopters of Wayfarer styled sunglasses, and many 1970’s and 1980’s stars brought aviators back into fashion. Today, many celebrities have their own lines of designer sunglasses, and many of the top brands claim to have their sunglasses worn by the current pop stars.
While sunglass trends vary year to year, classic sunglasses such as Aviators and Wayfarers styles are always appropriate. While sunglasses can be purchased for very low prices, most people prefer high quality designer sunglasses these days because they promise a trendy look, polarized lenses, clear optics, and durable frames. The future seems bright with the new technology coming out for sunglasses as well as eyeglasses. There are few products that may change how we view eyewear including Apple Smart glasses, Vue glasses and Intel’s new Smart glasses. They are intergrading our advanced technology with cell phones and out ever evolving eyewear industry. Here are a couple videos that explain in more detail what these products can do.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cV92KpFaoR8 Vue Glasses
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRyxDsOQhBQ Apple Smart Glasses
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnfwClgheF0 Intel’s New Smart Glasses