Ray-Ban Behind the Wayfarers – History, Philosophy, and Iconic Products

When WE think of sunglasses, chances are you’re picturing one of Ray-Ban’s iconic styles. That’s because, for 80 years, Ray-Ban has been producing sunglasses which are worn by people from all walks of life. World Wars, red carpet events, or family holidays – Ray-Ban sunglasses are there to shield eyes from the sun.

Throughout its seven-and-a-half decades, Ray-Ban has been instrumental in pushing boundaries in music and the arts, forging the rise of celebrity culture, and creating the power of rock and movie stars to influence fashion. From James Dean to Audrey Hepburn
to Michael Jackson, Ray-Ban has proven indispensable for cultural icons who don’t want to be seen – but definitely want to be noticed.
Ray-Ban has left an indelible mark on cultural history.


As new airplanes allowed people to fly higher and farther, many US Air Force pilots were reporting that the glare from the sun was giving them headaches and altitude sickness. A new kind of glasses was introduced with green lenses that could cut out the glare without obscuring vision, and the Ray-Ban brand was born.
This new anti-glare eyewear went on sale to the public in 1937. The original glasses featured a plastic frame with the now-classic Aviator shape. The sunglasses were remodeled with a metal frame the following year and rebranded as the Ray-Ban Aviator.

Ray-Ban continued to supply the U.S. and Allied militaries with eyewear throughout World War II, always improving their sunglasses with innovations such as impact-resistant lenses, and gradient mirrors, which featured a protective coating on the upper, but an uncoated lower portion of the lens for increased visibility of plane control panels. Though designed for military use, these products and innovations resonated with civilians who wanted to enjoy the same high-performance tools the pros were using.

1950s: Hollywood Glam

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In the wake of WWII, Hollywood was having an increasingly powerful impact on what people wore. The Ray-Ban Wayfarer model was launched in 1952, and once they had been seen on-screen legends such as James Dean in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause and later on Audrey Hepburn in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ray-Ban Wayfarer became one of the most instantly recognizable fashion accessories ever.
All the while, Ray-Ban continued to innovate. Introduced in 1953, Ray-Ban Signet sunglasses feature an eye-catching gold or silver frame with horizontal bands at the nose bridge, front corners, and ear stems. The original Ray-Ban Signet would spawn multiple
updates, including the 2011 Ray-Ban Johnny Marr’s Limited Edition customized by the guitarist for the legendary British indie rock band The Smiths. Further innovations of the 1950s included the G-15 gray lens (1953) – a neutral gray lens giving true color vision and exceptionally comfortable protection even in most dazzling glare – and a fourth metal frame style, the Ray-Ban Caravan (1957), a squarer version of the Ray-Ban Aviator later worn by Robert De Niro in 1976’s Taxi Driver. A dedicated women’s range was introduced in 1958, including frames in different colors with decorative flourishes that kept pace with contemporary fashion.

1960s: Revolution and Change

Ray-Ban continued to create new styles and Hollywood stars continued to wear them. The Ray-Ban Olympian I and II were introduced in 1965 and worn by Peter Fonda in Easy Rider in 1969. The frames feature a gently curving metal bridge and rounded rectangle lenses,
reinterpreting a classic with a sleek and elegant twist. Ray-Ban Balorama sunglasses emerged in 1968 and were famously worn by Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry in 1971. Meanwhile, Bob Dylan was rarely seen without his Ray-Ban Wayfarer, the dark lenses adding to his enigmatic non-conformist appeal.

1970s: Sporting Chance

Disco was king in the 1970s, and disco meant dressing to impress, which often included cool shades-even indoors. By now the eyewear market was becoming more sophisticated and had developed in two distinct directions: sportswear necessity and fashion accessory.
Ray-Ban launched two models, the Ray-Ban Vagabond and Ray-Ban Stateside, each with plastic frames and two types of lenses: the G-31 mirror lens and the standard G-15 lens. Re-introduced in 2010, the Ray-Ban Vagabond was updated with slightly teardrop-shaped
lenses for a cool, retro look.

1980s: Stage and Screen

ray ban tom cruise top gun - parrellioptical west roxbury

In the decade of arcade games, MTV, and the Brat Pack, Ray-Ban was one of the must-have brands. In the movies, there were leading roles for Ray-Ban Wayfarer in The Blues Brothers (1980) and Risky Business (1983). Top Gun (1986) took Ray-Ban Aviator back to their
fighter pilot roots, boosting sales of the Ray-Ban original. Michael Jackson established his signature look when he showed up at the 1984 Grammys in a pair of Ray-Ban Aviator. But it was Ray-Ban Wayfarer he chose for his epic Bad tour , which ran from 1987-89 and became the highest-attended tour in history.

1990s: A New Era for Ray-Ban

Ray-Ban continued to be a movie favorite in the 1990s: the Ray-Ban Clubmaster was worn by Denzel Washington in Malcolm X (1992) and Tim Roth in Reservoir Dogs (1992). 1997 saw Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones wearing Ray-Ban Predator in Men in Black while Johnny Depp wore a pair of Ray-Ban Shooter in 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

2000-2010: Culture and Celebrating 75 years

Major expansion of the Ray-Ban brand in 2003 included Ray-Ban Optical for prescription lenses and Ray-Ban Junior for children. Ray-Ban Optical draws on the brand’s pop culture heritage and meticulous craftsmanship to create contemporary eyewear infused
with Ray-Ban lifestyle and quality. The first sunglass collection dedicated exclusively to kids aged 8 to 12 years, Ray-Ban Junior focuses on maximum eye protection while providing stylish, comfortable frames. In 2005, Ray-Ban Junior expanded to include models
made entirely from titanium for a hypoallergenic and lightweight yet sturdy option.

In 2007 Ray-Ban launched the NEVER HIDE campaign, an innovative global media plan highlighting Ray-Ban’s unique ability to place the Ray-Ban wearer at the center of attention with a timeless cool statement. NEVER HIDE kicked off with an interactive project in NYC’s Times Square featuring 12 screens displaying images submitted by Ray-Ban wearers who wanted to express themselves honestly and spontaneously at “the crossroads of the world.” The images were then displayed in a gallery on Ray-Ban.com so that the
NEVER HIDE experience would continue worldwide, showcasing Ray-Ban’s ability to celebrate the individual and the movement.

2011 saw the launch of Ray-Ban Light Ray, a new sunglass and prescription eyewear collection that expands the Tech Segment. Ray-Ban Light Ray prescription frames are constructed with a hypoallergenic, durable, flexible, and incredibly lightweight titanium
alloy. Further, each pair of Ray-Ban Light Ray sunglasses comes with a kit of three interchangeable lenses for users to personalize the look of their glasses every day.
Ray-Ban has recently unveiled its most celebrated models reinterpreted with a modern take. Originally launched in the ’80s, the feminine Ray-Ban Cats 1000 were recently reintroduced with an elongated and rounded design in an array of bright and bold colors, including three different two-tone variations and a smoky lens. The masculine Ray-Ban Cats 5000 received a similar update, including two-tone models of purple and white, gray and blue, and pink and black.

Ray Ban is Forever in Style and loved by many celebrities. 

Find your favorite shape and color at Parrelli Optical in West Roxbury. 

Call the office or stop by to see full collection.


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