The History of Sunglasses

Most people know that sunglasses are a big part of the fashion industry today. But what does the story actually look like?

The origins are traced all the way back to ancient civilizations where hunters and gatherers used a type of sunglasses to protect themselves from reflections on water and snow. The protection was then solved not by a tinted lens but by creating a narrow opening in a piece of wood or bone. 

In the 12th century (and perhaps even earlier), a thinly cut brown quartz was used by Chinese judges to not reveal themselves. Although the sunglasses did not provide any form of UV protection, it offered them opportunities to conceal themselves thus not revealing any emotions in front of their witnesses.

Another template was used by actors in ancient Rome. Through smoky quartz, the actors were able to reduce the risk of being dazzled on stage. It is also said that the Emperor Nero used the same shape as early sunglasses to better see the gladiators fighting.

In 1753, English optician James Ayscough began experimenting with blue and green lenses. He was determined that these colors could potentially correct specific visual impairments.

Amber tinted glasses were also common in people with syphilis in the 1800s and early 1900s because one of the symptoms of the disease was sensitivity to light.

It is the beginning of the 20th century that sunglasses become increasingly common among people, but above all among Hollywood stars. Actors and movie stars wore them to protect themselves from the strong stage lights like their Roman predecessors but also from strong camera flashes.

The growing popularity of sunglasses spread faster and faster as people wanted to look like their role models and Icons.

Old version of glasses

Through simplified mass production, demand exploded when Sam Foster introduced his sunglasses on the beaches of Atlantic City and New Jersey in 1929. This he did under the name of Foster Grant. Foster Grant was made of plastic to protect the eyes from the sun's rays.

A few years later, in 1936, Edwin H. Land invented the first polarized sunglasses by using his patented polaroid filter during the manufacture of his glasses. Through the polarization, mica and reflections are greatly reduced. Thus, sunglasses became even more popular among people who engage in outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, and skiing.

Sunglasses also played a significant role during World War II, when Ray Ban created the Aviator model with anti-glare using polarization. This makes the model still today one of the most popular.

Nowadays, sunglasses have become more than just protection but also an important accessory. Frames come in all sorts of materials and shapes and UV protection and polarization almost an industry standard.

Here at Wear Walters Eyewear, we push for the sustainable alternatives in the form of wood and acetate. Protect your eyes and the planet with our environmentally friendly sunglasses.

Wear Walters Vidi - Wooden sunglasses
If you want to know more about the different materials we use, you can find them in the link below.
Wear Walters Meterial