The invention of sunglasses can be traced back to thousands of years when prehistoric Inuit tribes made use of walrus ivory glasses that had thin fissures to block out the sun rays. However, it wasn’t until 1920 when Hollywood celebrities began using them to help them conceal their identity from fans. Not long after, businessman Sam Foster sold the first pair of mass-produced sunglasses on the beaches of New Jersey and the rest is history.
Since that time, sunglasses have become a must-have, revered for both their style and functionality. Whether it’s the cat-eyed Oliver Goldsmiths that Audrey Hepburn once rocked to the Persol 714s that Steve McQueen wore on the set of the Thomas Crown Affair back in 1968, sunglasses are part and parcel of some of the most well-known looks in history. And so, with the arrival of spring and the sunshine that it brings, sunglasses are going to be back in vogue. With that, here are 10 intriguing facts that you may not know about sunglasses.
1) Sunglasses’ long and colorful history
The Inuit were the first to use makeshift sunglasses as they crafted snow goggles that were made out of animal bone, leather and wood. They then created small slits that let only the faintest sliver of light in. As crude as the invention was, it proved to be highly effective in shielding their eyes from the glare of the sunlight that reflected off the snow. However, historians have determined that before that, plenty of people have already been shielding their eyes from glare by looking through gems. The most famous person to do that back in the day was the Roman Emperor Nero who routinely used gems to watch gladiators battle it out in bloody, violent tournaments.
Judges in China were also known to wear smoky shades to hide their emotions before coming to a decision. It was in 1430 when the Italians created prescription sunglasses. Generations later, modern sunglasses were born and have become an integral part of people’s attire, known for its form and function, whether it’s in Hollywood, the urban metro, the beaches, mountaintops and virtually anywhere else.
2) Luxottica owns almost every popular sunglasses brand
While we’re sure you’re aware of such renowned brands like Ray-Ban and Persol, did you know that only one conglomerate owns nearly every single popular brand of sunglasses there is in the entire world? Yes, that would be the massive Italian company Luxottica. Aside from Ray-Ban and Persol, Luxottica also owns popular fashion brands that have licensing deals with the company such as Tiffany & Co, Prada, Chanel, D&G and so much more.
3) There are always new sunglass trends
Plenty of sunglass trends pop up every year. Whether it’s aviators, cat-eye, round, oversized or tiny sunglasses, you can expect a new one to become all the rage every few months. Celebrities have a lot of say in what’s trendy. However, it’s important to note that what looks good on some people may not fit you. It’s always advisable to go visit a store and try on new styles to see if they fit your face before making a purchase.
4) National Sunglasses Day is held every year on June 27
National Sunglasses Day is a commemorative date held every year on June 27 to celebrate the importance of wearing shades to protect the eyes from the sun’s harsh ultraviolet (UV) rays.
5) Polaroid sunglasses were invented in 1935
It was in 1935 when American scientist and inventor Edwin Land negotiated with American Optical Company to produce polarized sunglasses. This kind of glasses could screen out glare rather than simply darken the landscape. Such began the production of Polaroid Day Glasses, a longtime source of revenue for the Polaroid company.
6) Aviators were made to protect pilots from high-altitude glare
The Ray-Ban Aviator is without a doubt one of the most popular models in eyewear history. But did you know that these were originally produced in 1929 to protect pilots from high-altitude glare? In 1929, United States Army Air Corps Colonel John A. Macready collaborated with Bausch & Lomb, a medical equipment manufacturer, to make aviation sunglasses that would reduce the distraction for pilots caused by the intense blue and white hues of the sky. In particular, MacCready was uneasy with how pilots' goggles would fog up, greatly reducing visibility at high altitude. The prototype, created in 1936 and known as "Anti-Glare", had plastic frames and green lenses that could cut out the glare without obscuring vision.
7) Americans break a ton of sunglasses every year
Americans and sunglasses don’t work well together as they are known to either lose or break a pair every 14 minutes.
8) Famous songs have been made about sunglasses
Sunglasses are so ingrained into pop culture that several popular songs have been made about them. Two of the most unforgettable ones are ZZ Top's “Cheap Sunglasses” and Corey Hart's “Sunglasses At Night.”
9) The world’s most expensive pair of sunglasses is valued at $3,000,000
Called the Liz Taylor Diamond Mask, this pair was designed and created back in 1993 by Henry Dunay for Elizabeth Taylor. The piece was auctioned to benefit the American Foundation for AIDS research. It is set with over 130 carats of diamonds in platinum and gold.
10) Sir Elton John has over a thousand pairs
Known for his eccentric style as much for his vocal chops, Sir Elton John is hardly seen anywhere without having a pair of sunglasses on. His attachment to sunglasses have made him one of the most renowned style icons in the world and it is believed that he has an extensive collection of more than 1,000 pairs.