Ray-Bans were initially created in 1937 after Lieutenant John MacCready had returned from a balloon flying adventure in 1920. He complained that the sun had done permanent damage to his eyes. He contacted Bausch & Lomb asking them to create a type of sunglasses that would not only provide superb protection, but also look elegant. On May 7, 1937, Bausch & Lomb officially took out the patent. The prototype, known as Anti-Glare, consisted of an extremely light frame weighing 150 grams. They were made of gold-plated metal with two green lenses made of mineral glass to filter out infrared and ultraviolet rays. Pilots in the United States Air Force immediately adopted the sunglasses. The Ray-Ban Aviator became a well-known style of sunglasses when General Douglas MacArthur landed on the beach in the Philippines in World War II, and photographers snapped several pictures of him wearing them
Aviator sunglasses are a style of sunglasses that were developed by Ray-Ban in 1937. They are characterized by dark, often reflective lenses having an area two or three times the area of the eye socket, and metal frames with wire temples which hook behind the ears. Contemporary models are often polarized.
They were given their name due to their oblique teardrop shape, which matched those of the smoked-lens flying goggles which Ray-Ban was then selling to the Army and Navy. One undesirable result of wearing these goggles was the mismatched tan (dark on the face, white around the eyes) which developed—the oversized aviator sunglasses would hide the white areas, while allowing a limited amount of sunlight through, thus allowing the skin to tan. Though the early goggles were replaced by 1941, the sunglasses had become popular, especially with Naval aviators. Army/Air Force aviators preferred the smaller, more-squarish American Optical straight-temple glasses, which can be put on and removed even while wearing a flying helmet. The design was also popular as the bar across the bridge of the nose allowed Army and Navy members to keep a cigarette on it.
Legend claims that the need arose for aviator-style sunglasses because military pilots found that sun and glare protection would be helpful to aid them during day missions and dogfights. However, pilots of the time did not wear sunglasses while flying. The popularity of the glasses sky-rocketed as many celebrities began wearing the style of sunglasses. Notable wearers include Slash, M. Shadows, Val Kilmer, Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Madonna, Hunter S. Thompson, Irwin Sparkes, Lemmy Kilmister Johnny Knoxville, Freddie Mercury, Roger Waters, Steven Tyler, Axl Rose and Kanye West.
The large lenses are not straight as in eyeglasses but bulge out slightly. The design attempts to cover the entire range of the eye and prevent as much light as possible from entering the eye socket from any angle. While still popular with military and civilian aviators alike, the sunglasses work quite well (and were seen as fashionable in the 70s and 80s) and have been taken up by the non-flying civilian population. Law enforcement officers have also taken a liking to the glasses for many reasons, including their excellent cancellation of glare and prevention of eye contact. The design was originally intended for shooting.
The Aviator became a well-known style of sunglasses when General Douglas MacArthur landed on the beach in the Philippines in World War II. Photographers snapped several pictures of him wearing them for newspapers, and Americans instantly fell in love with them.