The Sunny Scoop


12nd January 2022

The History of the Iconic Brand, Ray-Ban

Tom Cruise wearing the Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglassesTom Cruise wearing the Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses
Tom Cruise in Risky Business, 1983

Responsible for some of the most widely-recognised eyewear shapes on the market, if one was to mention timeless sunglasses, a brand that immediately springs to mind is probably Ray-Ban. The iconic brand, which was born out of a desire to fill a niche in the optics market nearly a century ago, has firmly established itself as one of the world's most popular eyewear brands, worn and adorned by celebrities and other famous celebrities for decades. The American brand continues to be acclaimed for its timeless designs, advanced technology and unparalleled sophistication, establishing itself as a frontrunner in the eyewear industry. Ray-Ban is the eyewear of choice for those who aren't afraid to express their most authentic selves.

Founded in Rochester, New York, in 1937, Ray-Ban was created by American company Bausch & Lomb, which were the first company in the US to produce optical glass. During the First World War, the demand for optical instruments increased, and the company began to diversify its products by using the knowledge gained by its founders through their research into optics for the military. Having already created special lenses designed to limit glare experienced by pilots in the Army Air Corps, Bausch & Lomb began to create similar glasses for the use of the general public. In 1937, the aviator-style metal sunglasses were introduced to the market, later renamed the Ray-Ban Aviator.

The brand's surge in popularity was due to a little help from Hollywood, where classic Ray-Ban shapes frequented famous films of the time like Breakfast at Tiffany's and Rebel Without a Cause. Ray-Ban became an emblem of Hollywood, pop culture and a reflection of the American spirit and continued to play a part in elevating famous characters' elusive coolness. After a brief decline in the 1970s, Ray-Ban once again propelled into popularity in the 80s by Tom Cruise wearing the Wayfarer in Top Gun and again in Risky Business. The iconic Wayfarer style continues to be a go-to for off-duty shades, appearing in more recent films like The Wolf of Wall Street and spotted frequently on modern celebrities like Taylor Swift and Kanye West. If Ray-Ban's rich history is to suggest anything, it's that the brand will remain a prominent influence in fashion and pop culture.

Where are Ray-Ban sunglasses manufactured?

Ray-Ban sunglasses are hand made in Italy and are of exceptional quality due to the premium materials used in craftsmanship. Despite originating in the USA, Bausch & Lomb sold Ray-Ban to the Italian eyewear group Luxottica, the largest company in the eyewear industry that manufactures other premium brands like Oakley and Oliver Peoples.

Why are they called Ray-Ban?

The inspiration behind the name, Ray-Ban, is fairly straightforward. As the brand started out developing eyewear for pilots wanting to reduce glare without obscuring vision while flying, the brand's name was derived from the ability to ban ray's of light, hence the name, Ray-Ban.

Vintage Ray-Ban Aviator Ad

Ray-Ban Aviator

The hero of American style and the design that made Ray-Ban come to be, the Aviator, or otherwise known as the Pilot style, remains one of the brand's best sellers. The original Aviator's featured the brand's signature G15 green lenses designed to reduce glare without obstructing the pilot's vision, however, these were not polarised lenses.

Much of the protection came from the Aviator's teardrop shape and convex lens that ensured maximum eye coverage while stopping light from hitting the pilot's eye from any angle. The G15 lens was considered anti-glare rather than polarised as polarised lenses block reflection completely, which is unsafe for flying as they will fail to see a shimmer off of another aircraft in the air. After the war, and the prevalence of Aviator sunglasses readily available to the general public, Aviator's were quickly embraced as a fashion staple that was both stylish and functional. The famous pilot-style was a victorious emblem from winning the world ward while adding being a glamorous accessory when military-style was at the high of fashion in the 50s and 60s.

Despite their huge popularity in fashion and Hollywood for decades, Ray-Ban Aviator's have never really gone out of style. Their classic look and shape that looks great on almost everyone have seen countless renditions of the famous shape from other designers and small sunglass labels, proving that the Aviator shape is truly timeless.

Ray-Ban Wayfarer

Not far behind the Aviator, Ray-Ban's iconic Wayfarer style remains one of the most sunglass styles ever. First released in 1952, the Wayfarer was one of the first of its kind to adopt a thick, plastic frame as much of the sunglasses on the market were made from metal. After their debut on the big screen, sported by James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause in 1955, the Wayfarer quickly became a household name and the latest sensation to take Hollywood and the eyewear market. Sturdy in design with a masculine demeanour, the upswept style was favoured from businessmen to free-spirited individuals due to its edgy but sophisticated look, becoming the quintessential "cool" shades everyone was eager to get their hands on.

However, the Wayfarer's popularity was not quite as linear as the Aviator. The 70s brought about a liking to metal frames once again, particularly wider and rounder shapes, which caused the Wayfarer's popularity to decline. After a feature in the 1984 Blues Brothers film, Ray-Ban signed a deal with Unique Product Placement, guaranteeing the style would feature in at least 60 television series and movies per year, which saw the Wayfarer's huge revival in the early 1980s.

Today, the Wayfarer is still one of the most popular sunglass styles while being the blueprint for many modern eyewear shapes on the market. With an unmatched coolness and easy-to-wear design for many face shapes and all genders, the Wayfarer is a style that is here to stay.

With a heritage as rich as Ray-Ban's, it goes without saying that the American brand has left an incredible mark on cultural history. Worn by movie stars, presidents, and the most prominent social figures of the time, Ray-Ban's profound influence on technology, fashion and lifestyle is undeniable. Championing lens and frame technology while maintaining its unmatched sophistication, there is no doubt that Ray-Ban will continue to influence and shape trends in the eyewear world. Shop the biggest range of Ray-Ban sunglasses for men and women, including the classics, at Just Sunnies.