Some items are so iconic that they defy a traditional history. Aviator sunglasses are one such a phenomenon – it is difficult to image a world without this timeless frame. They have also managed to stay in style since their creation – from the 1950s rock and rollers to the 1970s Miami vice, the aviator has remained a powerful fashion accessory for decades. And their popularity continues even today, with high street retailers and high end designers all striving to create the perfect pair.
viator sunglasses emerged during the 1930s. In these early days it was Ray Ban who were the sole producers of the style, developed for pilots to protect their eyes whilst flying (hence their name). The sunglasses were actually invented not by Ray Ban themselves, but by eye care experts Baush & Lomb, who also produced a number of other items for wartime efforts. It was Ray Ban that they chose to brand them, and an iconic design was born.
Their original specifications (which generally are still the same on official Ray Ban aviators) included an area size 2/3 times bigger than the eyeball, G-15 tempered glasses which give the aviator their natural green look, as well as a slightly convex lens. The aviator became instantly famous when American General Douglas MacCarthur wore them whilst landing on a beach in the Philippines during World War II. Quickly becoming a symbol of masculinity and army involvement, men across America bought into the style, wearing them with their Levi’s 501s for a memorable American look.
Since then, the aviators popularity has continued to grow as new brands have put a new spin on the classic style. By the 1960s, aviators came not just in the signature green and gold, but also in black, silver and mirrored styles. They became popular with celebrities (mostly attracted to their large size) and they soon became a covetable component of the modern uniform. Celebrities including Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, The Beatles, James Dean and Elvis Presley all extended the popularity of the shape. They have also featured extensively in pop culture, perhaps most memorably in Top Gun in the 1980s.
Aviators can be worn year round, and are so versatile that they work with almost any menswear look. Go for fifties America with a vintage white t-shirt and traditionally cut Levi’s, or try them the Italian way with a light grey or even coloured suit for a louche summertime look. And whether you go for official Ray Bans, a modern designer take on the style or a high street version, this is a shape that will last for summers to come.