a man and a baby boy wearing sunglasses a man and a baby boy wearing sunglasses

History of sunglasses

Sunglasses protect our eyes. Make us look cool. And help us make a fashion statement.

But do you know anything about their history? Join us as we travel back in time and take a closer look at the evolution of sunglasses.

P.S. Don’t forget to pack your shades!

Shedding light on the history of sunglasses

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explore the timeline below
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Pre-historic

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Pre-historic

Original ray-bans

Inuits created the first-known sunglasses by flattening walrus ivory with narrow slits to block the sun’s rays and prevent snow blindness. They give a whole new meaning to I Am The Walrus.

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1100's

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1100's

ANCIENT POKER FACE

Chinese judges wore glasses with smoky quartz lenses, but not for protection from the sun.Their goal was to conceal their facial expressions when questioning witnesses.

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1700's

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1700's

venetians launch uv protection

Known as “gondola glasses,” these shades were worn by the nobility to shield their eyes in and around the waters of Venice.

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1920's

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1920's

star power

Silent movie stars popularized sunglasses. Sure, they used them to avoid recognition, but it’s suspected they wore them to hide their red eyes caused by incredibly powerful arc lamps used on movie sets.

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1936

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1936

polarized lenses land in sunglasses

Edward Land not only invented the Polaroid camera, he invented one of sunglasses’ biggest breakthroughs — glare-reducing polarized lenses.

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1937

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1937

aviators take flight

Originally developed for the military, Ray-Ban® Aviators, with their iconic metal frames, went on sale to the public in 1937. Aviators were the first shades to use polarized lenses.

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1950's

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1950's

purr-fectly '50s

Nothing symbolizes the 1950s better than cat-eye frames. Celebrities like Marilyn Monroe popularized this sophisticated and eye catching look, which still has a huge following today.

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1952

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1952

wayfarers are a scene stealer

Launched in 1952, Ray-Ban® Wayfarers were seen on screen legends such as James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Today, they’re still a stellar style.

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1960's

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1960's

wrap star

Ray-Ban® Balorama wrap-around sunglasses blasted onto the scene in the 60s, but they really took off when they were worn in Dirty Harry.

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1970's

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1970's

fade in the shade

In the 1970s, faded lenses became a fashionable trend that was popularized by the stars of Annie Hall and Klute. One advantage they have is that they can be worn indoors, particularly in nightclubs.

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1980's

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1980's

shields rock the landscape

Shields ruled when the King of Pop donned a pair in the ‘80s. Today, rock stars and rappers still favor this style.

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Today

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Today

brightest day of the year

Consumers across the globe love sunglasses not only to express their unique style, but also because of UV protection and the comfort of anti-glare while having fun in the sun. It’s why more than 95.9 million pairs of sunglasses were sold in the U.S. in 2014, and why we now celebrate National Sunglasses Day on June 27th

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Provider Locator

With thousands of in-network independent eye doctors, top optical retailers and online options, choose the brands and services you want.

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a. Guests 17 or under get a complete pair (frame + lenses) of eyeglasses for $59. Includes select Armani Exchange, Arnette, Vogue, A New DayTM, Cat & JackTM, and GoodfellowTM & Co. frames with single vision Comfortlight Kids lenses (polycarbonate without anti-reflective) and lenses may be upgraded to ComfortLight Active lenses (polycarbonate with anti-reflective) for an additional $25. Guests 18 and older get a complete pair starting at $79. $79 offer includes single vision ComfortLight (plastic) lenses and select lens upgrades available - $60 for ComfortLight Active lenses (polycarbonate with anti-reflective), and $60 for multi-focal lenses (lined multi-focal and progressives). No other frame or lens upgrades allowed. Complete pair (frame and lenses) purchase required. Valid prescription required. Cannot be combined with vision insurance benefits, other offers, or previous purchases. Offer is not eligible for 40% Off Additional Pairs promotion. Valid in-store and online; frame selection varies by store and select frame brands available online. Void where prohibited by law. Discounts off tag price. No cash value. See Target Optical® Employee for details. Offer valid from 3/8/2021 through 5/9/2021.

  1. 1 - Based on consumer study data by AC Nielsen and verified by Vision Watch data, 2008.
  2. 2 - Archive of Ophthalmology, “Vision Loss from Eye
  3. 3 - American Academy of Ophthalmology, “Frequency of Ocular Examinations,” 2009.
  4. 4 - American Optometric Association, “Infant Vision: Birth to 24 Months of Age,” 2010.
  5. 5 - Prevent Blindness Florida, “2010 Children’s Eye Health and Fact Sheet,” 2010.
  6. 6 - Boyd, Kierstan. “How Hormones Can Affect Eyes and Vision.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 12 Nov. 2018, www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/how-hormones-can-affect-eyes-vision.
  7. 7 - Based on consumer study data by AC Nielsen and verified by Vision Watch data, 2008.
  8. 8 - American Optometric Association, “Infant Vision: Birth to 24 Months of Age,” 2010.