Ray-Ban is an iconic American brand of sunglasses and other eyewear. When one thinks of the name, it is synonymous with classic American style. By far the most famous item to emerge from the brand are the globally recognised Aviator sunglasses.
These famous eye pieces were originally developed for the American Air force in the 1930s. Aviation was developing at a rapid pace and pilots needed something to assist them with headaches and altitude sickness caused by sun glare. At the time, Bausch & Lomb were a medical equipment manufacturer working out of New York. They were tasked with developing eyewear suitable for the conditions the pilots had to operate within. The answer provided by Bausch & Lomb in 1936 was the ‘Anti-Glare’ style Aviator sunglasses complete with plastic frames and green lenses to combat the brightness. The frames was changed to metal in 1937 and rebranded as the ‘Ray-Ban Aviator’. The iconic brand had officially arrived.
Over the next few years, Ray-Ban released other styles of Aviators including the Outdoorsman for outdoor enthusiasts, complete with a “sweat bar”. A few years later, gradient lenses were produced with added glare protection on the top part of the lens and less on the lower part to allow pilots to see their aircraft’s instrument panels clearly.
By 1952, the Wayfarer was unveiled. This would be the first pair of Ray-Bans endorsed through celebrity usage. James Dean famously wore them for his most renowned performance in Rebel Without a Cause. They were however not the last pair of Aviators to be made famous through celebrity endorsement. The wrap –around “Olympian 1 and 2” were introduced in 1965. Peter Fonda donned them in the cult movie Easy Rider. The Balorama was next to be released, worn by Henry Callahan in 1973’s Magnum Force.
As Ray-Ban Aviator’s popularity began to increase, more lucrative endorsements were organised. The sunglasses found themselves centre stage in such movies as Blues Brothers (1980) as well as the two well-known Tom Cruise movies, Risky Business (1983) and fighter pilot film, Top Gun (1986).
The 90s proved to be a far more challenging time for Ray-Ban. Aviators, now considered to be outdated in the fashion world began to lose popularity as other brands started to gain solid footholds in the market. This led to Bausch & Lamb selling the brand to Luxottica, an Italian owned eyewear company. The deal amounted to $640 million!
Ray-Ban’s new owners knew new ideas were required to ensure the future of the brand. A series of innovative and sleek wrap-around designs were introduced. These included the models Prophecy, Gatsby, Inertia, Predators, Cutters and Sidestreet. The brand managed to regain popularity and soon cemented its place in the global market as a classic brand.
Today, Ray-Ban are still one of the top selling eyewear manufacturers in the world. Their Aviator sunglasses have inspired countless other brands to follow suit in the developed and retailing of similar frames. Ray-Ban can truly be considered pioneers in the world of legendary sunglasses.
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