Sunglasses started out as eye protection and were mass produced by Sam Foster in 1929. Ray-Ban Aviators were created in 1936 for military aviators and are now as commonly worn as any brand. Sunglasses did not become a fashion accessory until the 1940's when film stars wore them to hide eye redness from the bright lights on the set and to be incognito. The general public followed suit and the trend was established for good.
Lenses can be any colour and shape that the buyer desires. Novelty frames are very individualized. Wayfarers became the rage in 1952 after James Dean wore them everywhere and they became his signature look. They originally had black plastic frames and lenses that were wider on top than bottom. Later, different colours of frames were added to the collection.
Mirrored sunglasses are very popular today, but started out as the way to cut glare. Edwin Land had a patent for the Polaroid filter for cameras that he applied to glasses in 1936. A mirrored coating on a tinted glass lens improved the eye's ability to see contrasts on snow or water where the glare was potentially blinding. This improved depth perception needed in skiing and snowboarding and looking beneath the surface of water. These lenses are worn by police officers and referred to as "cop shades" sometimes.
Oversized sunglasses were made popular by Jackie O in the 1960s. Sophia Loren also favours large lenses and many women wear them today. They had a major resurgence in the 1980s and are now not uncommon. They do cover more skin but are generally chosen for the fashion factor.
Perhaps the most widely recognised frame of the past is the cat eye shaped lens and frame. It does not conjure up pleasant images necessarily, but vivid ones. The original frame was tilted up at the outside corners and appeared to be shaped like the eyes of a Siamese cat. Some were exaggerated to a sharp point on the end and not exactly flattering to the wearer. The cat eye glasses made now are attractive and less dramatic, and more attuned to style. Lily Tomlin as the phone operator is one image of less than stylish cat eye frames.
Heart shaped frames were seen a novelty, however celebrities such as Kelly Osbourne, Nicole Richie and Drew Barrymore have recently been spotted wearing them. Flower shaped frames appeared in the 1960s and are now often made for children. They do use every colour imaginable and frequently have the shape of a daisy. In the same vein, only more designer-oriented, keyhole sunglasses are shaped so that the bridge and lens frame are in the shape of a keyhole where they fit over the nose. The lenses are nearly round and considered retro. They come in tortoise shell and coloured frames for more of a retro effect.
Most sunglasses have plastic or lightweight metal frames as they are lighter on the face. They are available in thick and thin frames in a multitude of colours and styles, and it is fair to say that sunglasses have an undeniable cool factor.
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