The Wayfarer – A Brief History


What do Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol and Madonna all have in common? Their sunglasses, of course! Specifically, the Ray-Ban® Wayfarer®. The instantly-recognisable design has been vying for the title of “Most Popular Sunglasses Ever”, along with the brand’s other flagship model, the Ray-Ban Aviator. So what is it that makes them so special?

Muhammad Ali Wayfarer
Muhammad Ali rocking a pair of Original Wayfarer sunglasses in an early TV interview.

Before the Wayfarer, the vast majority of sunglasses had metal frames. But advances in plastics technology in the 1940’s made it possible for Raymond Stegeman to develop the trademark ‘trapezoid’ frame, which was patented in 1952. Their unique style quickly became a favourite of the Hollywood stars, a symbol of America’s golden age, starting with James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause (1955). Many people think that former US President John F. Kennedy also wore them, but in fact, his sunglasses were an imitation model by American Optical! Not that it mattered much to Ray-Ban, whose authentic Original Wayfarer model continued to dominate the cultural landscape throughout the 1960’s, with both Bob Dylan and The Beatles sporting them, among many others.

After hitting a lull in the 1970’s, the Wayfarer came back cooler than ever in the early 1980’s, partly thanks to their starring role in a series of Hollywood movies, most famously The Blues Brothers and Risky Business, but also on Michael Jackson’s Bad world tour.

The Blues Brothers
The Blues Brothers

Despite the ongoing, seemingly never-ending appeal of the timeless Original Wayfarer design, Ray-Ban has never been a brand to rest on its laurels. After transferring production to Italy from the United States at the turn of the millennium, Ray-Ban released the New Wayfarer, a slimmer, lighter, more rounded version, as well as the Folding Wayfarer. Since then they have continued to add to the collection, with lots of limited editions, “Rare Prints” and other special versions of the Wayfarer, both old and new. At time of writing there are over one hundred varieties available.

Bruno Mars on set making the video for "Grenade".
Bruno Mars on set making the video for “Grenade”.

Fast forward to today, and the Wayfarer is still hugely popular with young and old alike, with new stars like Robert Pattinson, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry all rocking these legendary sunglasses. Who can blame them? The seasons may come and go, but it looks like the Wayfarer will be with us for a long time yet. So check out the whole range of Wayfarer sunglasses available on our website, and find your perfect pair!


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