What’s In Your Sunglasses?

Wearing sunglasses, in the age of the internet, has been synonymous with everything that is cool and in fashion; it is the symbol for “chill”: which has long ceased to be a simple word and has morphed into a concept, a mindset, and (some might argue,) a way of life. And why not? Sunglasses call to mind sweet, sweet summer days, of the rock and fashion icons we all look up to when it comes to style.

Fancy as they are, they were made for a practical reason. But they have evolved beyond that: they’re not merely used to protect one’s eyes from the glare of the sun, they’re a peek through history too. A pair of sunglasses could say “modern” or “retro” or “quirky” without the wearer needing to bat an eyelid.

Let’s take a look at how something as simple as a pair of colored lenses managed to evolve to mean this much.

An Insight to the Practical Side

Sunglasses have always been a part of a fashion statement that it’s easy to overlook the fact that they were made mainly for practical and medical reasons–more on that on the next part of this article. First, let’s talk about how important these items are.

Sunglasses have been around for a long time–longer than what you might think, precisely because they serve a purpose. In prehistoric times, the Inuit peoples wore flattened walrus ivory “glasses” with narrow slits on each “lens” to block the harmful rays of the sun.

The eyes are our windows to the world. Important as they are, they don’t seem to need much taking care of, just the routine check-ups and sometimes, prescription glasses (if required). However, hovering above us is the biggest threat to our eyes–look up, well actually, for your eyes’ sake, don’t–it’s the sun. During sunny days, pair up the sunscreen with a pair of reliable sunglasses: the eyes are ten times more sensitive to UV light than the skin.

Sunglasses provide protection from both the visible and invisible components of excessive exposure to sunlight. The most widespread protection sunglasses provide is against ultraviolet radiation, which can cause short-term and long-term ocular problems such as photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea and conjunctiva), cataracts, pterygium (a benign growth of the conjunctiva), and eye cancer. To prevent these, experts recommend sunglasses that filter out 99-100% of UVA and UVB light.

Have a kid? Then you have more reasons to invest in high-quality, reliable sunglasses. Children are more at risk for sun-related eye problems, since younger eyes have bigger pupils and clearer lenses, allowing 70% more UV light to reach the retina than the adult eye does.

Those who have undergone eye operations would benefit from high-quality sunglasses. The usage of sunglasses is mandatory immediately after some surgical procedures such as IntraLASIK and recommended for a certain time period in dusty areas, when leaving the house and in front of a TV screen or computer monitor after LASEK.

Who’s That Behind The Pair?

And as with everything posh and fashionable, the Romans played their part in the history of sunglasses, too–it is said that Roman Emperor Nero liked to watch gladiator fights with emeralds. However, crystal sunglasses have been common tools used by judges in Chinese courts since the 12th century (possibly earlier) to conceal their facial expressions while questioning witnesses.

The early 1900s is when eyeglasses began to earn the credit for the status symbol that they are now. It is commonly believed that movie stars wore sunglasses to avoid recognition by fans, but another probable explanation is that they use sunglasses to cover up red eyes caused by the powerful arc lamps that were needed due to the extremely slow speed film stocks used.

Sam Foster started Foster Grant, and brought the fad to the streets in 1929. He found a ready market for easily-accessible sunglasses on the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and eventually he sold 20 million sunglasses in the United States in 1937. During the golden era of American film, Foster Grant epitomized the usage of eyeglasses as fashion accessories with a single, iconic slogan “Who’s that behind Foster Grants?”

In the 1950s, one of the most iconic type of sunglasses were the ones sported by Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn: the cat-eye. They’re those sunglasses with longer, sharper frames around the edge of the lens for a more dramatic upsweep. For men, the browline sunglasses were all the rage–those ones that has a bar across the top of the frame, made famous by the “rebel without a cause,” James Dean.

Retro Sunglasses

The 1960s were a time of political and cultural revolution, and the sunglasses worn during the time were a reflection of this. When one thinks of the 1960s, “retro” is one of the immediate thoughts. The sunglasses of this era were huge, bug-eyed, and oversized. Jacky O sealed her spot as an icon of the era by having a type of sunglasses named her: the round, oversized, dark sunglasses we call the “Jackie O sunglasses.” This era also gave birth to the white sunglasses made famous by the actress, fashion model, and Brigitte Bardot.

The 1970 took retro to a whole new level by playing with colors: most sunglasses in this era played with variations in lens colors, as seen in the ones worn by Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton. Men’s sunglasses were distinctly square in shape, and featured wire frames.

Shield Glasses

One of the most prominent figures of the 80s? Princess Diana. Taking from the white sunglasses of the 80s, the Princess sported a pair of white, oversized sunglasses that immediately took the world by storm. Shield sunglasses, made famous by the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson marked the era, as well as the aviator sunglasses sported by Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”.

Malibu Sunglasses

The 90s to present feature various reinventions of the retro style, featuring round lenses with thin frames. The sunglasses are made and re-made to suit the needs and the “personality” of a generation. The styles of sunglasses that we see today are the product of generations of reincarnation and design.

Finding the Perfect Pair

We’ve been talking about the practical and aesthetic functions of sunglasses for quite a while now, and to be able to fully grasp just how much of a feat in terms of invention these things are, let’s take a while to understand how they work. To be able to do that, (this knowledge comes in handy when choosing the right sunglasses for a certain purpose as well!), it’s imperative to take a look on how the human vision functions, and how we see colors.

Color originates in light. All of the colors in the spectrum are present in sunlight and other sources of white light, which makes them, technically, colorless. So too, are objects–since color is not inherent in objects. How do we see colors then? It’s a three-step process: light goes from the source, to the object, then finally to the detector (the human eye and brain). To be more specific, all of the invisible colors of the source (the myriad of hues in the spectrum) shine on the object (for this purpose, let’s suppose that the aforementioned object is an apple). The surface of the apple absorbs all the colored light rays except for those that correspond to red, the wavelengths of which is then reflected to the human eye.

When choosing the right sunglasses, purpose is the main concern, as certain frequencies of light can blur vision while others can enhance contrast. Certain sunglass lenses eliminate particular frequencies, making them great for when you need to maintain a clear view, while still getting the protection your eye needs.

Gray lenses protect against glare, making them excellent glasses to wear for driving and general use.

Dark amber, copper, or brown lenses block high amounts of blue light, resulting in a heightened contrast and visual activity between grass and blue skies, making them the pair of choice for activities such as baseball, cycling, golf, and skiing.

Green lenses preserve color balance (natural color intensity). They filter blue light and reduce glare. Green lenses are the perfect ones to use for sports such as baseball and golf (where you need to focus on a distinctly white object).

Amber, rose, or red glasses are the lens of choice during partly cloudy, and extremely sunny weather conditions, but tend to cause significant color imbalances. These colors also provide the best contrast against a green or blue background making them the perfect lens for cycling, fishing, water skiing, and hunting.

Yellow or orange sunglasses filter blue light for sharper focus. They’re the best type of lenses to use during overcast, hazy, or low-light conditions, as well as indoor sports. Use them for skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, indoor basketball, handball, racquetball, and tennis.

Sunglasses reflect the personality of the wearer. Let’s zoom out a bit–sunglasses reflect the personality of an era. Something that holds this much power could definitely do wonders for your promotions. Check out the wide variety of sunglasses that we have in our collection might just be the ones that would best reflect your business. Sunglasses are powerful in its practicality, influential in its symbolism.

The question now is, what is in your pair?

Did You Know?

  • The most expensive pair of sunglasses sold on eBay is the Elvis Presley’s personal Madison Square Garden Sunglasses, priced at $250,000.
  • In 2004, Oakley developed Thump, a pair of sunglasses with a built-in digital audio player.
  • A pair of men’s sunglasses is sold every 90 seconds on eBay.
  • Sunglasses constitute a $34 billion annual market at retail.
  • Ray-Ban sunglasses sold 10 million units worldwide in 1998. The best-known model, the Wayfarer, has been available since 1953 and is reported to be the best-selling style in history.

Written by:

Mariah Shanice Basa


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