Aviators are one of the most recognized styles for of sunglasses. From their popularity in the 1970s to the contemporary appearances in cop shows and celebrities, these grasses have become synonymous with cool.
But before aviators were the ultimate fashion accessory, they were created for a completely utilitarian purpose. Read on to find out more about how aviator glasses transformed from a military project to popular eyewear for men and women.
Invention of Aviator Sunglasses
In the 1930s, the US Army Air Corps, the precursor to the Air Force, needed an alternative to traditional pilot’s goggles. These bulky goggles fogged out when flying and did not block blue sky and sun rays, causing pilots to get distracted while they were flying.
Several different optical manufacturers partnered with the military to make a lightweight pair of sunglasses that would keep out sunlight, not fog up, and stay on low flying. They also had to fit under helmets and other flight gear.
The company with the best design was Bausch & Lomb, who named their sunglasses Ray-Bans, since they blocked light rays. B&L created a design that had large lenses, similar to goggles, that tapped at the bottom with temples that held the glasses close to the face. The sunglasses lenses had a special anti-reflective coating and were connected by a dual wire bridge for extra stability.
Recognizing the potential commercial possibilities of these new glasses, Bausch & Lomb redesigned them with a metal frame and launched them to the public in 1938 under the name Aviators after their pilot heritage.
Aviators Rise to Popularity
Photographs in WWII depicted daring pilots and esteemed generals like Douglas MacArthur in aviators. When the war ended, post-victory enthusiasm prompted the American public to embrace military styles in the 1950s, including wearing Ray-Ban aviators.
While Ray-Ban aviators remained a classic over the following decades and are still popular today, other brands quickly moved to produce trendy aviator glasses in the 1950s. These included:
Over the next decades, aviator styles would expand with aviator glasses for women, plastic frame aviator glasses, and aviator eyeglasses.
Today you can find vintage aviators in retro styles ranging from military aviators to fashion glasses. Start your search for retro aviators at Eyeglasses Warehouse with our large selection of glasses from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.