A Brief History of Sunglasses

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Sunglasses have undoubtedly become a staple in modern fashion wear. They started as simple tools to protect the wearer against the sun’s harsh rays and have evolved into quintessential fashion pieces that exude the wearer’s unique sense of style and personality and signal that it’s time for summer fun.

However, there is more to sunglasses than meets the eye. The next time you don your favorite pair of shades, consider the rich history of sunglasses and trace their evolution through the years of ever-changing fashion sense and style.



The Invention of Sunglasses

Throughout history, many cultures have used different forms of light-blocking eye coverings to protect themselves against the harsh UV rays of the sun. The earliest known usage of such “eye coverings” is traced back to Inuit people, who made eye masks out of ivory to block the harsh sunlight reflecting off the ice.

In 12th-century China, judges would wear eyewear whose lenses were made out of flat panes of smoky quartz. They were not only used to block sunlight but also as a means to hide their facial expressions when questioning witnesses. Even Roman Emperor Nero watched Gladiator matches through an emerald instrument that shielded his eyes.

However, it wasn’t until the mid-1700s that tinted glass lenses made their way onto sunglasses as we know them today. Often credited to be the pioneer of sunglasses, these tinted lenses were the brainchild of English optician James Ayscough who believed that blue/green tinted lenses could potentially be used as a treatment for some eye impairments.


Sunglasses On Celebrities

Sunglasses would probably not have become so symbolic of fashion and cool had it not been for celebrity influence.

In the 1930s, various stars began wearing sunglasses to mask the eye irritation that resulted from the bright camera flashes and studio lights they encountered each day. The trend took the fashion industry by storm, and sunglasses surged in popularity among the masses.

World War I and II also saw the invention of polarized sunglasses, which air force pilots used to block mid-air sun glare. Because these pilots were seen as heroes of the battlefield, polarized sunglasses became a favorite for the general masses in the post-war 1940s.


Sunglasses As Promotion

The upsurge in the popularity of sunglasses as fashion wear in the 1930s brought marketers a unique opportunity to use them as promotional tools. Nowadays, sunglasses have become one of the most ubiquitous promotional materials among big corporations and small startups alike. The reasons are simple: sunglasses are genuinely useful, sustainable, and can function as effective and subtle advertising, especially during the summer months.

If you’re researching promotional products for your brand, you cannot go wrong with using sunglasses. To get started, choose a frame design and research some sunglasses logo ideas that would work well with the chosen frame and fit your brand. Since the lenses are interchangeable, you can pick any good quality lens available in the market.


Sunglasses In Sports

Sunglasses are handy in sports settings to block out sun glare that is not only highly distracting but can also cause serious injuries. Different sports warrant the use of different types of sunglasses:

Trekking and Hiking Wear- These sunglasses are designed with high UV protection ratings. They are also engineered to be highly stable and comfortable to wear even with additional mountain gear.

Running Glasses- Running sunglasses offer regular UV protection and are also designed to stay in place even with the constant jerking movements of running. Other athletes, like baseball players, also use running glasses as their primary eyewear while playing.

Ski Goggles- These are characterized by glare reducing and high contrast lenses, helping skiers and snowboarders see where they’re going as the sun reflects against the slopes.


The Future of Sunglasses

With summer arriving and COVID-19 restrictions in many places being lifted, it is time for sunglasses to make their annual comeback as front liners in the fashion industry. Here are some latest 2021 sunglass fashion trends to help you look the trendiest in the summer streets!

Square Fit Tennis Goggles- The lifting of the lockdown restrictions and the resumption of regular sports saw a massive upsurge in sports-inspired outfits. These sleek, square-fit tennis goggles will effortlessly match and complement any of your favorite sportswear.

Angled Cat-Eye- These retro-inspired, high-angled frames are a refreshing new twist on the classic cat-eye look.

Retro Aviators- Aviators have always been a staple in the sunglass industry and have received periodic updates to their design over the years. You can spice things up this summer by going old-school and rocking the first-generation retro aviators that made the public fall in love with the look in the first place.


A Classic Tool With Complex Fashion Undertones

When the Inuit designed their ivory eyewear, they did so with the sole purpose of blocking harmful UV rays of the sun. Now, you’ll often find articles all over the internet that criticize or applaud celebrities for their choice of sunglasses and how they complement (or clash with) their personality and fashion sense.

Since their inception, sunglasses have come a long way. Only time will tell how this staple of the fashion industry will evolve next.


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Written by Lola McQuenzie

Lola is one of our busiest writer. She has worked for Catwalk Yourself since 2007. Lola started working with us after she graduating from Central St Martins

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