What do Muhammad Ali, Blondie, Andy Warhol and Madonna have in common? Their sunglasses, of course! Specifically, the Ray-Ban Wayfarer ™. The instantly recognizable design has competed for the title of “Most Popular Sunglasses Ever,” along with another flagship brand model, the Ray-Ban Aviator ™. Okay, but what is it that makes them so special?
Before the Wayfarer, the vast majority of sunglasses had metal frames. But advances in plastics technology in the 1940s made it possible for designer Raymond Stegeman to develop a frame with a robust masculine look that was nicknamed ‘trapezoid’ and that was patented in 1952 by the American company Bausch & Lomb, owner of the Ray-Ban brand.
This is how the ‘Wayfarer’ embarked on its journey. The unique style quickly became a favorite of Hollywood stars, a symbol of the golden age of the United States, starting with James Dean in the film “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955). Many people think that former US President John F. Kennedy wore them too, but in fact, his sunglasses were an American Optical knockoff! Not that it mattered much to Ray-Ban, whose authentic original Wayfarer model continued to dominate the cultural landscape throughout the 1960s, being sported by everyone from Bob Dylan to The Beatles.
Hollywood actors of the time were very often seen wearing sunglasses, supposedly to protect their eyes from the glare of paparazzi. The attraction to the stars fleeing journalists hungry for a couple of shots certainly still matters in modern times, however in those days the magnesium from direct paparazzi camera flashes literally blinded actors. and actresses relentlessly pursued by dozens of photographers at premieres and parties. From there, the reputation for mystery and charm did the rest. Sunglasses became a highly coveted accessory for the public who yearned to look like their favorite star.
Music, cinema, literature, art. In the 1960s Wayfarer sunglasses were seen on stars ranging, from Andy Warhol to Marilyn Monroe, from Henry Miller to Jack Nicolson. They conveyed a unique style with their individual character and were a benchmark for creativity, sex appeal, intelligence, and commitment.
After going through a period of calm in the 1970s, Wayfarer returned stronger than ever in the 1980s, in part thanks to his starring role in a series of famous Hollywood movies, The Blues Brothers, Risky Business (Tom Cruise), and also on the world tour of the musical “Bad” by Michael Jackson. Fast forward to today, Wayfarer remains hugely popular with young and not-so-young alike, with new stars like Robert Pattinson, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry all deserving of these legendary sunglasses. Who can blame them?
The seasons may come and go, but it seems that the Wayfarer will be with us for a long time yet. The original Wayfarer transcends age and time. A 15-year-old boy is cool with them, a 70-year-old woman is cool with them. It is like an enigma. How much cooler could it be? And the answer is none. Nothing cooler that your Wayfarer, the perfect couple!