While shades have existed in some form since the 1300s, it wasn't until the 1930s that the sunglasses craze took hold, as more and more Americans and Europeans went on beach vacations. In fact, Sam Foster sold the first modern-day shades, a pair of Foster Grants, on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1929. This trend exploded in the following decades as Hollywood stars and fashion icons such as Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis hid behind glamorous sunglasses, made by the likes of Persol and Emilio Pucci.

Men, meanwhile, took to wire-framed Ray-Ban "aviator" sunglasses favored by World War II heroes such as George S. Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, and Douglas MacArthur—this straight-laced military look was later popularized by counter-culture rockers such as Bob Dylan and Lou Reed. In the 1930s, the U.S. military commissioned Bausch & Lomb to make UV-blocking shades, and the company's Ray-Ban aviator glasses debuted in 1936, with anti-glare polarized-lens technology, invented by Edwin H. Land, of the Polaroid Corporation. In 1948, the first mirror-faced aviator sunglasses hit the scene, offering even greater protection from the sun, as well as the ability to watch people in secret.

Thanks to their air of mystery, dark shades became a symbol of cool detachment for beatniks and '50s jazz musicians. Perhaps the most iconic sunglass design is Ray-Ban's Wayfarer, launched in 1952, with its signature chunky frame. Mod and hippie fashions of the '60s demanded more whimsy, and John Lennon favored tiny tinted wire-framed spectacles called "teashades." Depending on the style, sunglasses came to signal urban sophistication, nefarious intent, or inscrutable intellect. Later fashionable looks like those by Alpina, Vuarnet, and Oakley originated as protective gear for athletes. Coveted vintage sunglasses include designs by Neostyle, Paloma Picasso, Oliver Peoples, Revo, Cazal, Matsuda, and Carrera Porsche.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

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Recent News: Sunglasses

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2 Days, 2 Nights in Rome
Toronto Star, April 17th

For a more satisfying market experience, head to MercatoMonti, where about two dozen vendors — an upstart collective of young designers, artisans and vintage dealers — sell everything from felt fedoras and vintage sunglasses to striped sweaters and ...Read more

Jaime King Dresses her Bump in a Stylish Jumper
Celeb Baby Laundry, April 14th

Jaime King was photographed stopping by Anastasia salon in Beverly Hills, CA on on Tuesday (Apr. 14). The Hart of Dixie actress was dressed in a navy jumper that showed off her growing baby bump. She paired her stylish maternity look with vintage ...Read more

Accessories? More Like Necessities!
The Spectator, March 31st

Carr is already displaying the vintage sunglasses trend around campus. All kinds of vintage clothing are making a comeback, so go through your grandparent's closets or to the thrift shop because this spring and summer it is all about the retro. Fashion...Read more

Vintage sunglasses – a sense of mystery
Sydney Morning Herald, December 4th

Breakfast at Tiffany's, with Audrey Hepburn, was as memorable for her distinctive sunglasses as for her pearls and chic black dresses. Hepburn's wide-brimmed straw hat and oversized tortoiseshell glasses added a sense of mystery. The Hepburn look...Read more

Five of our favourite vintage sunglasses!
My Fashion Life, August 4th

If you're fed up of all the modern sunglasses that are appearing in the shops and online at the moment and want to take things back to basics, then we have what you're looking for. What would you say if we told you that you could get your hands and...Read more

Best Bets
New York Magazine, June 29th

How to Buy Vintage Sunglasses Three tips from J. Kirby Harris, owner of Vintage Optical, popping up at the Annex Markets lot (W. 25th St. nr. Broadway) weekends in late July. (Photo: Courtest of the vendor). 1. Do the optician check. “Inspect the...Read more

15 Unique Vintage Sunglasses
Care2.com, July 15th

So this week, I wanted to roundup the best of the best vintage sunglasses! If you dig the list but want to buy local, try scooping out your local thrift shop for options or Googling your town name + “vintage sunglasses” to see if you happen to have a...Read more

Jeremih & The Vintage Frames Company: Private Vintage Sunglasses ...
YouTube, August 30th

Jeremih summons the crew of The Vintage Frames Company to roll through Toronto to get him dipped in some Vintage Sunglasses and Vintage Chains. Corey Shapiro (Vintage Frames Company) and the whole team rolls out to Toronto to set Jeremih up with ...Read more