«On an expedition to Alaska, a man was attacked by a brown bear. He didn’t escape the scratches, but when I tried to hit his eyes, the bear couldn’t break his Oakley sunglasses. Another user survived a fire with his eyes intact; his facial burns following the contour of his Oakley ». These are testimonies collected at Oakley headquarters in Irvine, California, a unique building that more closely resembles a CIA spaceship or secret hideout than a sunglasses company.
In the 1985 Tour de France Bernard Hinault, (who had already won 4 French round titles), was the victim of a bad fall, which caused him even more serious injuries due to the poor protection of his glasses. Black eyes, a broken nose and cuts from his bike frame almost cost him the Tour.
That same year a young American named Greg Lemond managed to be 2nd in the Tour (and later three-time champion), largely due to the clarity, protection and comfort of the design of revolutionary glasses that have gone down in history with the name of ‘Eyeshade’®, and that triggered Oakley’s meteoric rise.
Not many people know this, but Oakley, the global company known for its sunglasses, ski goggles, surfing, snow, and high-performance gear, started in a garage, (oddly just as Apple did), as a manufacturer of BMX grips.
A singular scientist named Jim Jannard, (the company has never published a photograph of him), began to question the limits of industry standards and in 1975 the Oakley firm was created with the sum of $ 300 and the simple idea of making products that were innovative. Twelve years after launching its first pair in 1980, Oakley has become the second largest manufacturer of sunglasses in North America, and the third largest in the world.
“If you want to do something, be brave and bold, but try to do something useful.” It was Jim’s motto. Locked in his lab he developed a new type of motorcycle grip with a unique tread and shape that fitted precisely into the rider’s closed hand. The best professionals realized that the new design and material actually increased grip when sweating, unlike traditional grips. Jim Jannard then named this grip “Unobtanium” ®, which is still used today in many Oakley eyewear models.
Oakley sunglasses appeared on the market in 1980, which was the moment when the firm launched its first model of motorcycle lenses. Under the nickname-O-Frame’®, these lenses consisted of an arched lens that mimicked the eye’s own curvature to minimize distortion, and which would become the company’s hallmark.
Decades of innovation have not stopped at Oakley, and new patents (600 to date) draw heavily on the aerospace industry. Their advertising gets straight to the point: “Electromagnetic radiation is rushing toward you at 186,282 miles per second.” It Warns in its ad, “Billions of dangerous particles from the solar furnace bombard your eyes and demand the immediate need for the most avanced protection in the universe, fortunately this is made here on Earth. By Oakley! : Plutonite® – Thermonuclear Protection! ». This new material patent claims to protect against the firing of a steel ball at 102 mph to suffer only a small dent.
Among the athletes who have chosen this brand to carry out their sports activity, the 2014 ironman world champion Miranda Carfrae stands out. Mountain biker Nino Schurter and Mark Cavendish, who wears Oakley glasses in competition. Even Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso is faithful to Oakley sunglasses. Michael Jordan sits on the company’s board of directors. Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Spike Lee, David Duchovny and Madonna have also been seen wearing Oakley.
Over the years Oakley has earned the respect of a growing number of elite athletes: They all wear the company’s sports eyewear, not because they get paid to do it, but because they appreciate quality.