Fashion is often fleeting, but the Ray Ban remains classic. While Ray Ban aviators were popularized when Tom Cruise wore them while in training at the United States Navy’s elite fighter weapon school in the movie Top Gun, it was a real US Army Air Corps request that sparked the invention of the first model. The lens manufacturer Bausch & Lomb created the first Ray Ban aviator with a green lens in an attempt to reduce nausea and headaches among pilots in the US Air Force. Subsequently, in 1937 the prototype was remodelled with a lightweight metal frame.
In 1944, US General Douglas MacArthur unintentionally sparked the Ray Ban craze when he was photographed wearing a pair during the Second World War on a beach in the Philippines.
In the 1950s, Ray Bans developed into a symbol of modernity and innovation partially because the Wayfarer was made from molded plastic, rather than metal. This allowed for bolder and brighter frames. Intellectuals and celebrities alike made the Wayfarer a modern classic. Everyone from James Dean to Malcom X had a pair.
The 70s provided Ray Ban with a challenge because people began to wear shiny disco sunglasses, but the company adapted by expanding its offerings to include prescription eyewear. In 1974, they introduced the photochromic Ambermatic lens which would change color depending on the lighting conditions making the glasses ideal for winter sports.
Today, the Ray Ban aviator and the Wayfarer remin two of the best-selling silhouettes of all time. To quote the company, “Through every decade of its existence, Ray-Ban has shaped popular culture. Never just a transient trend, Ray Ban eyewear marks out the wearer as an individual of taste and discernment.”