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Who made aviator sunglasses famous?

Updated on February 24, 2013

Classic Avaiators

Classic Metal Frame Aviators
Classic Metal Frame Aviators | Source

The story

The first Aviator sunglasses were known as “pilot glasses” because they were originally developed by the company Bausch and Lomb for use by pilots in 1936. Their large lenses were created to keep the sun out of the pilot’s eyes when he was flying and enabled him to move his head in any angle without fear of the sun getting under the sunglasses and dazzling him. The original styles only allowed 20% of light to reach the pilot’s eyes and had hooks on the legs to attach the sunglasses onto his ears to stop them from falling off. Ray-Ban branded the Aviator design and, seeing how popular they were, starting selling them out with the military in 1937. Their popularity soared, and they have remained in the number one slot for sunglasses designs ever since.

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General Douglas McArthur Courtsey ilikerayban
General Douglas McArthur Courtsey ilikerayban
Top Gun - Tom Cruise Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Top Gun - Tom Cruise Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Shaddy Characters
Shaddy Characters | Source

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The birth of an iconic brand

The universal appeal of Aviator sunglasses is down to a number of features, particularly their wearability, the fact that they suit both men and women and their connection with the rich and famous.

The first iconic Aviator wearer was the charismatic General Douglas MacArthur, who was famously photographed wearing them on a beach in the Philippines while he commanded the US Army during World War II. As the photos continued to be published in the press, the craze for Aviator sunglasses increased. Their appeal continued to grow during the 60s and 70s but it was the dawning of the 80s that saw a real boom in Aviator wearing. The film Top Gun was responsible for getting the Aviators back on the big screen. Both men and women swooned at the images of Tom Cruise and his pilot comrades sporting leather flying jackets and the all-important Ray-Ban Aviators. The look made such an impression on the public that Ray-Ban saw a 40% increase in their Aviator sales after the film was released!

An enduring celebrity appeal

They soon became an essential item for any wannabe rock and film star. Aviator sunglasses have the unique attribute of suiting celebrity women as much as men, and they were worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in the Sex and the City films, Julia Roberts in Eat, Love, Pray and Carrie Ann Moss in The Matrix. Musicians such as Jon Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson and actors such as Jonny Depp and Brad Pitt have all famously sported the design, and they continue to be popular today with the younger generation of celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Zak Efron and Miley Cyrus.

Popular Ray Ban Aviator Style Reviews

Who do you think made these sunglasses famous? - movies, celebrities, history figure, brands, friends etc.


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    • profile image

      Josiane 3 years ago

      he pointed his hand on to her dress and in her hands he held. If anhintyg he is a slut. he has wife and children, why?..You do more for some alone time. partners toyou and also to her. I see you carrying two boxes. Being totally restraint nurturing, having good time. what about your wife? how is she?

    • DIYmommy profile image

      Julie 4 years ago

      Aviators aren't really my style, but I see can see how some could like them. I'm not sure that I could pull off a good look personally with aviators. Thanks for the great hub! I always enjoy a good read about elements of fashion and its history.

    • carrierichard profile image

      carrierichard 4 years ago from California, USA

      @SweetiePie - You can always test it out.. it matter of you should feel good wearing it..

      @Dolores thank you! I thought it was for Douglas McArthur as I googled and it showed same pic.

      @PegCole17 Those were classics and everyone still loves them.. I have seen fashion is like a circle. Today everyone loves what's vintage..

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I love those Ray-Ban glasses although I never owned a pair. My Dad wore them when he was in the Navy (WWII) and out on the ocean serving on ships. His had a neat leather pouch that slid onto a belt so they could be stored and kept handy.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I love fashion history so I really enjoyed this one. (I think the picture of Douglas McArthur just below the first video is really Gregory Peck, the actor who played the general in a 1977 movie)

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I do not think I could pull off the aviator glasses look, but it is cool.