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The History of Aviator Sunglasses


Aviator sunglasses have a rich history dating back to the 1920s when they were originally developed by Bausch & Lomb. 

During WWI, the United States increased its use of aircraft for attack missions. As test pilots started to fly at extreme heights, the temperature sometimes plummeted to as low as minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, becoming a pilot’s top enemy. In the early 20th century, leather hoods and fur-lined goggles were commonly used to fight these terrible weather conditions at higher altitudes. However, these goggles had some major disadvantages. They were heavy, uncomfortable and not dark enough to protect the eyes from the intense sun in the upper atmosphere. As a result, pilots would often face blinding rays from the sun and would land with strained and exhausted eyes. Understanding their struggles, the United States Air Force decided to get new sunglasses specifically designed for military pilots to fix these issues.



In 1930, John A. Macready, who served as a Colonel in the United States Air Force, began to work with Bausch & Lomb to design and develop specialized goggles for military use. In 1936, Bausch & Lomb’s first pair of Aviator sunglasses was created. They were first used by pilots in order to protect their eyes from the sun while flying, hence the name Aviator or “pilot” glasses. Due to their lightweight, thinner and more elegant design, they also replaced the flight goggles in military use.

In 1937, Bausch & Lomb trademarked the sunglasses as Ray-Ban sunglasses and started selling them to the public. However, they were originally sold as sporting equipment that provided “real scientific glare protection” for fisherman and golfers. Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses initially cost several dollars while other sunglasses at the time cost around 25 cents.

How did Aviator sunglasses become a part of cultural style?

As World War II hit, Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses became a staple of military gear for pilots. Ray-Ban Aviators became even more popular and transitioned into a commercial product after General Douglas MacArthur was photographed wearing them when he landed on a beach in the Philippines. These photos have become the lasting images of World War II and Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses became a part of cultural style. The event marked the start of the Aviator becoming the iconic fashion statement it is today.

Its popularity continued to grow throughout the 1950s with many Hollywood celebrities donning a pair. By the 1960s and 1970s, many iconic figures could be seen wearing a pair of Aviator sunglasses, including Gloria Steinem and Paul McCartney. In the 1970s, they started to develop alternatives to the original Aviator and different coloured Aviators started to emerge. A version for women was born with pink frames, brown lenses and rhinestone details, and so the Aviator was no longer a style just for men.  Also, at the same time, other manufacturers across the United States such as Polo, Serengeti and Persol, started to mimic this iconic style to create their own pair of Aviator sunglasses. There seemed to be a pair of Aviators for everyone! By the 1980s, Ray-Ban Aviators were at the forefront of a cultural change. The iconic sunglasses were worn by Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in Top Gun. Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses had become one of the first popularised styles of sunglasses.


Aviator sunglasses are characterised by dark lenses made of mineral glass with very thin metal frames and a double bridge

The green anti-reflective lenses help to block harmful rays from the sun, such as infrared and ultraviolet rays, preventing wearers from getting eye strain.

The teardrop shape gives pilots complete coverage, with full protection of the entire eye socket, without limiting the field of vision. The thin gold-plated alloy frame is ultra-lightweight to ensure maximum comfort.

As well as its association with the military, Aviator sunglasses are synonymous with looking cool.  Style them with a leather jacket and you can look just like an action hero!


Today, Aviator sunglasses are everywhere and are available in many different styles. At SmartBuyGlasses UK, customers can find the best Aviator sunglasses at incredible prices. We have collections of Aviator sunglasses for men and Aviator sunglasses for women. As well as Ray-Ban, we also stock other well-known brands such as Celine, Michael Kors and Gucci Aviator sunglasses. They come with a 24-month warranty, a hassle-free 100-day returns policy and a price match guarantee.

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