RayBan Aviators -as you might expect- are linked to the beginnings of aviation. On December 17th, 1903, the Wright brothers became the first to fly a controlled plane. But the history of these iconic sunglasses would come in the 1920s, when new planes and pilots yearned to fly higher, farther, and faster.
The McCook Field testing ground in Dayton, Ohio was the scene of those feats. Illustrious names passed through this impressive birthplace of pilots. Even Buzz Aldrin’s father, (2nd man to walk on the moon) Mr. Edwin E. Aldrin, helped establish the McCook School of Engineering. Before coming to McCook, he taught a young pilot named Leroy Grumman. A generation later, Grumman’s company built Buzz Aldrin’s lunar landing module.
As the chief pilot instructor of the time, Lt. John Macready of the United States Army Air Corps had amazed the aviation world, flying a biplane at a staggering 34,500 feet. But many of his pilots and he himself suffered the terrible consequences caused by these altitudes, frostbite, glare … The attempt of one of the pilots on the altitude record, Rudolph William Schroeder (“El Chapo”), is well described as an experience near death:
“After climbing for an hour and 47 minutes to an altitude of 33,114 feet with a temperature of -60 degrees, Schroeder began to suffer from oxygen deficiency and carbon monoxide from the engine exhaust. When he raised his glasses for a moment to locate his emergency oxygen supply, the moisture film between his eyelids and his eyes froze. He attempted to put the plane into a gentle descent, but instead fell into a vertical dive and passed out. He regained consciousness after diving about six miles and was able to pull out at an altitude of 2,000 feet. As a result of this flight, Schroeder’s vision was affected for the rest of his life.
John A, Macready decided to take action on the matter and asked Bausch & Lomb, a New York-based medical equipment maker, to create sunglasses that would reduce the headaches, nausea, and glare that pilots experience, because of the Intense blue and white shades of the sky, The prototype, created in 1936 and known as ‘Anti-Glare’, had wraparound plastic frames and green lenses that could cut the glare without obscuring vision. The sunglasses were remodeled with a metal frame the following year and renamed as ‘Ray-Ban Aviator‘.
On May 7th, 1937, at Bausch & Lomb took out the patent, and the Aviator was born. In 1939 Ray-Ban released a new version of the aviator called “Outdoorsman.” It was designed for specific groups, such as hunting, shooting and fishing enthusiasts, and featured a top bar called a “sweat bar” that was designed to catch sweat that fell into the eyes. A few years later, in the 1940s, gradient lenses were introduced with a special coating on the top of the lens for added protection, but no undercoat for clear vision of the aircraft’s instrument panel.
Later, during World War II, General Douglas McArhur landed with them on the beaches of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Hollywood picked up the style and transited with it in many films. From 1953, with the Marlon Brando film “The Wild One”, it became a myth. The inclusion of the Ray Ban aviators in the film had its explanation; Many of the motorcycle gangs of the time included people who had recently left the US Army, who equipped certain service personnel with Ray-Bans. As a result, a large number of lads who joined the motorcycle gangs wore Aviators. Soon, the style was also copied by movie buffs, who were drawn to the powerful image of the rebellious Brando. Once again, life imitated art and Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses became a favorite among movie stars and celebrities to this day.
What is it about Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses that make this style and fashion icon so attractive? Is it the look? The pedigree? The truth is that the Ray-ban Aviator and its teardrop shape will continue to have an irresistible charm for any generation. How many other fashion items can go through almost 80 years with hardly any tinkering and changes, and still remain popular?