Browline glasses were the style standard in the 1950s and 1960s. The popularity of their use increased to the point that browline glasses accounted for half of all prescription and sunglasses sales in the 1950s. As a result, many famous figures have carried browlines, from activist Malcolm X to Harry Crane (Mad Men) today. Its name, “browline”, is so named because the top of the frame frames the glasses just as the eyebrows frame the eyes.
In the middle of the 20th century, the American man evolved as an ambitious and self-confident entrepreneur, well ahead of his international contemporaries. Maybe that’s what drove the first browline design. Developed in 1947 by Jack Rohrbach, then Vice President of Shuron Optical in North Carolina, it was sold under the “Ronsir” brand. His strong dominating gaze was quickly associated with success, and soon the browline took the lead in the desing preferred by North Americans. In fact in 1970 Shuron had sold over 17 million pairs of these glasses.
With twenty years of undisputed leadership, it was the golden age of browline. Malcolm X owned multiple pairs, each in different colors. The black leader and human rights activist, who had converted to Islam and was later assassinated in 1965, was a browline devotte. Many famous figures from the mid-20th century used browlines, such as the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken or President Lyndon B. Johnson.
But in the early 1970s, the browline was shipped back in packaging. Probably because everyone and even Grandma wore browline, or because it was about being strongly associated with people plagued by controversy. Whatever the reason, browline was no longer popular.
The second time browline design ruled the fashion world was in 1985, when actor Bruce Willis made his name in the hit television series ‘Moonlight‘. While the series lasted four more years, browline sunglasses continued to be celebrated. Although Ray-Ban was already dominating the eyewear market at that time, in 1986 it was quick to develop its own version, and the ‘Clubmaster‘ was born, it went on to become the third best selling sunglasses style of the 1980s, behind the Wayfarer and Aviator.
But for the 1990s, it took a beating once again. Drippy-pamby, quirky, boring, were some of the most polite names she received
In this period Hollywood released films featuring the controversial glasses. Oliver Stone directed JFK, where Kevin Costner plays a prosecutor investigating the alleged conspiracy against President John F. Kennedy, assassinated in 1963. In ‘Falling Down’ – 1993, Michael Douglas is a normal citizen who only wants to return home and who rebels violently against everything around him. In 1992, when Malcolm X was released, the similarity between Denzel Washington, the actor who played African-American activist Malcolm X, was quite marked.
This is the third time that the browline has made a comeback. And how! Everyone seems to be looking for a browline glasses. The new generation is a modified version, which has changed with the times. Now synthetic materials have been left behind and the trend is to return to nature … made of aluminum, wood and leather. but bringing a modern touch with its imposing original character.
Attitude. Class. And a touch of royalty. The popularity of the browline has been fueled by a multitude of celebrities who have enthusiastically embraced it. With more and more companies trying to adapt the design, it is evident that the browline has come this time to play a long game.