Vintage Sunglasses – The Coolest Fashion Accessory

Brief History of Sunglasses in Fashion –

Vintage Sunglasses – Jules-Richard-photo-of-two-women-in-Paris- Image -Musée-Nicéphore 1934

By the 1930’s, basking in the sun had become such a norm, that the wearing of sunglasses naturally became a real fashion accessory. We explore the history of sunglasses through  the 20th century.

Vintage Sunglasses - 1930's
Vintage Sunglasses – The 1930’s tortoise shades

The classic tortoise shell framed and tinted sunglasses of the 1930’s were worn by many female Hollywood stars.

Vintage Sunglasses – Bette Davis wearing tortoise shell shades

The tinted lens tortoise framed eye-wear has helped define a specific look that the 1930’s is now specifically remembered for. It is the decade that discovered sunglasses as a fashion accessory.

Vintage Sunglasses – Alfred-Eisenstaedt–1930’s-sunglasses-fashion–Life-magazine–1938

Names such as Foster Grant ( the first really commercially popular sunglasses brand ) and Ray Ban by Bausch & Lomb became as fashionable as Chanel.

Vintage Sunglasses – Carole-Lombard—Ray-Bans-Aviator-sunglasses

In 1937 with public obsession at an all time high for aviators such as Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh,

Bausch & Lomb introduced the brand nameRay Ban to launch anti-glare ‘aviator’ sunglasses.These became particularly popular on the ski-slopes and with mountaineers.. Research had shown that many pilots suffered from headaches due to sun glare.

Vintage Sunglasses – Ray ban Aviator sunglasses -General-MacArthur

These “Ray-Ban Aviators“, with their chic wire frame sunglasses with green glass lenses, replaced the traditional circular celluloid frames with more modernist shapes, and were worn by everyone from Hollywood stars like Carole Lombard to General “I will return!” Douglas McArthur.

Back in 1929 the inventor Edwin Land patented Polaroid and went on to patent various uses for his polarizing technology, including sunglasses, but it wasn’t until 1938 when Edwin Land teamed up with American Optical to create the Polaroid Corporation , that the first polarized sunglasses were produced.

Sunglasses have pretty much remained as as a fashion accessory ever since, with each decade providing its own iconic styles, popularized by famous actors and singers.

Movie Sunglasses

Movie Sunglasses – Gloria-Swanson in Sunset Boulevard

Hollywood Costume designers like Edith Head, herself a big aficionado of wearing shades, was one of the first to encourage Hollywood stars to sport sunglasses in the 1930’s. She always grabbed opportunities to adorn her stars with a pair of shades, like good friend Gloria Swanso. Here’s just a few selected iconic images of stars wearing sunglasses from some great movies.

Vintage Sunglasses – Grace Kelly and her cat eye sunglasses – To-catch-a-thief – 1955
Cary-Grant – North by Northwest
Vintage Sunglasses -Aimee-and-Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita
Peter Sellars - Dr Strangelove-sunglasses
Peter Sellers – Dr Strangelove

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s Audrey Hepburn’s iconic glasses, despite common assumption to being Ray-Bans, are in fact by Oliver Goldsmith.

Blues-Brothers “a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses”
Thelma & Louise-sunglasses
J – You know the difference between you and me? I make this look GOOD.

Iconic Sunglasses worn by Musical Artists

John-Lennon—Kirkland-sunglasses-as worn in The Beatles Penny-Lane

That’s all !


Further Reading:

Retro Sunglasses – Decade-by-Decade Vintage Style
The Top 20 Movie Performances with Glasses
Girls Who Wear Glasses – 1940s Beauty Tips



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