They’re worn for fashion as much as protection these days, but sunglasses have been around much longer than movie stars and hipsters.
A Little History
Flattened walrus ivory glasses were used by the Inuit people in prehistoric times to prevent going snow blind. In China, judges were said to use glasses made of flat panes of quartz in the 12 century or earlier to hide their eyes when interrogating witnesses. The Roman emperor Nero watched through polished gem lenses as the gladiators fought to their deaths. He probably couldn’t see a thing but he looked marvelous.
You can thank Sam Foster, yeah that same Foster from Foster Grant who first brought us inexpensive, mass-produced shades sold on the beaches of Atlantic City starting in 1929. It is said movie stars first wore them due to the bright arc lights they performed under which gave them red eyes, but if you buy that theory, I have some Ray Bans I’ll sell you for five bucks.
Let’s Make Them Polarized
Polarized glasses which by the way help you see fish in the water and other things you may miss by reducing glare were first introduced in 1936 by Edwin H. Land. Soon after, in World War II Ray Ban came out with their ubiquitous aviator style glasses using polarization that banned the sun’s rays. (Get it? Ray Ban?)
No UV for You or Me
Ultraviolet radiation protection is the norm in sunglasses today. While there is no international standard, medical experts recommend glasses that reflect or filter 99-100% of UVA and UVB light. The widely used standard of the European Union is 95%. Either standard will certainly help but nothing prevents damage from staring at the sun, even during a solar eclipse which, come on, we’ve all tried at least once.
It’s Styling Time, The Wayfarer
This is a classic that has never gone out of style. Ray Ban is famous for making it a timeless choice. You can safely wear these anytime and be hip, stylish, or classic, take your pick.
The Big, Oversized Shades
Sunglass fashions change just like every other accessory. Big glasses are hip right now, for women that is. They exude a taste of glamour from days gone by. We picture Sophia Loren or Audrey Hepburn in the fifties or sixties and we see big, oversized glasses. Though they are hip right now, this is one style that does not hang around indefinitely.
This is a man’s pair of sunglasses, though sometimes in style for the ladies. Popular since coming out during World War II, the Aviators saw a slight dip in popularity in the nineties but are back with a vengeance.
The Round Specs
Also known as John Lennon glasses since he made them cool in the sixties, these are only for certain faces and attitudes. Never really the big thing, or out of style, they hang around and are hip on the right face. If you have the round glasses with the pop-up shades you’re either stuck in the eighties or hip beyond reason.
This is a spec of mostly lens with just enough of a cut for your nose. Used in skiing it provides maximum UV and wind protection. Used as a fashion statement it leans toward the modern and sleek style. These may not last forever on the fashion runway but will never go out of style on the ski slopes because of their versatility.
You can go from a cheap $5 up to hundreds if not thousands. Some folks are just being pretentious and ridiculous with the prices they charge as you are paying for a designer name. Quality outfits like Maui Jim, Ray Ban, and Oakley have high prices but offer a quality product and sometimes great replacement plans if their glasses are broken. Some consumers prefer cheaper glasses so you don’t have a fit when you lose them or break them; not a bad idea when vacationing at the beach for example. And, our personal favorites are a nice mixture of price and quality.