A Look At The History of Sunglasses

by Karen

A Look At The History of Sunglasses

 Sunglasses are one of those ubiquitous accessories that seemingly everyone wears. No matter your age or design aesthetic, there’s a pair of sunglasses that will align with your personal style. Aside from their practical purposes, they are an easy way to make even the most ordinary outfits look even cooler. Here is a brief of history of sunglasses - one of the world’s most timeless accessories.

Early History of Sunglasses

The concept of “sunglasses” has been around forever. Even ancient people needed a way to keep the sun’s bright glare from getting in the way. The first sunglasses were said to be invented by the Inuit people. These weren’t glasses like were used to today, however. Instead, they used pieces of ivory with thin slits in the center, which allowed people to properly focus their sight on sunny days. During Roman times, emperors were also said to hold gemstones up to their eyes when observing goings on during bright afternoons.

Sunglasses For Practical Purposes

Eventually, sunglasses started to more closely resemble the styles we wear today. People started to create spectacles with tinted or colored lenses around the end of the 18th century - but they weren’t created to make a fashion statement of any kind. These tinted glasses were instead used to impair people’s vision or to help those who suffered from illnesses that caused a sensitivity to light.

Sunglasses Become a Fashion Statement

In the early 1900s, sunglasses were typically very basic and had very little variation. They featured standard round lenses surrounded by thin, basic wire frames. In 1929, a man named Samuel Foster started selling sunglasses in Atlantic City to shield beachgoers eye’s from the sun. Not long after, Hollywood movie stars were seen and photographed wearing sunglasses as a fashion accessory and the trend caught on among the masses. By the end of the 1930s, LIFE magazine reported that stylish sunglasses were now one of the country’s most popular fads.

The Most Popular Sunglasses of the 20th Century

history of sunglasses


During the 1940s, sunglasses started to be sold in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles. They were also used practically as well. During World War II, a lightweight pair of sunglasses became preferred over heavy, bulky pilot’s goggles. This minimalistic design featured tinted lenses and wire frames. They became known as “The Aviator” because of their use by members of the military.


In the 1950s, sunglasses were a must-have accessory. During this decade, the Cat Eye Frame was undoubtedly the most popular. Their exaggerated frame was often dotted with decorations or gemstones to make them even more stylish. This retro frame was popular among women can be seen in a variety of movies that came from this era. During this era, men were hungry for a style of sunglasses that were a bit more “masculine” in appearance than the Cat Eye. In response, sunglasses company Ray Ban came up with a sleek, sophisticated style that was strictly geared towards men. Called “The Wayfarer,” these are still one of the company’s most popular styles.


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a style of eyeglasses called “Browlines” became popular. While these weren’t a type of sunglasses during this era, Ray Ban eventually re-invented then with tinted lenses during the 1980s. They dubbed them “The Clubmaster,” and this timeless style is still worn throughout the country.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.