Search for information about aviator sunglasses on the internet and you will find a number of articles, many of which provide different versions about who first manufactured them and their association with aviation.
When most people think about aviator sunglasses they picture sunglasses with those large, tear drop shaped lenses. And when you look at celebrities, they are wearing those large, tear shaped sunglasses, either with a sliver mirror finish or that green tint.
Many of the articles on the internet credit Ray Ban, a division of Bausch & Lomb, with creating the first aviator sunglasses back in 1936. They claim that these sunglasses were an evolution from the aviator goggles which were standard issue to pilots during World War I .
It is interesting to note that Ray Ban did not exist in 1936! Secondly, Ray Ban did not make sunglasses popular – Foster Grant when he mass produced oversized sunglasses cheaply and sold them through Woolworth's on the boardwalk in New Jersey.
On the West coast sunglasses became popular as movie stars began to appear in public wearing these oversized sunglasses. It was assumed they were wearing them to disguise their identity; in truth they were simply trying to protect their eyes from the harsh lights of movie sets which left their eyes red and strained.
It was not until the late 1930s that real aviator sunglasses came into existence for pilots. Initially aviator goggles were worn by early pilots for a very practical reason. Early aircraft often had engines that consumed engine oil, and excess engine oil would blow back on the pilot's face during flight. Combined with the effect of wind in the open cockpits, goggles were a good solution to the oil and wind problems.
The famous white scarves that blew back over the pilot's shoulder were not a fashion statement; rather, they were used to wipe the oil off of the aviator goggles while flying their aircraft.
In the 1920's the US Army Air Corps issued a request for anti-glare goggles as aircraft and pilots began to fly at ever higher altitudes. In response Bausch & Lomb proposed anti-glare aviator sunglasses with metal frames and large, tear-drop shaped lenses with a green tint. Bausch & Lomb rebranded the Anti-Glares as Ray-Ban sunglasses (so-called because they banish rays) in 1937 and started selling them to the general public.
Ray Ban aviator sunglasses received a real boost in popularity when Douglas MacArthur was photographed wearing a pair during his return to the Philippines during World War 2.
But the US military does not normally award a contract to just one supplier for items like aviator sunglasses, so it turns out there were initially two companies supplying aviator sunglasses to the military: Ray Ban and American Optical.
During the early 1930s American Optical was supplying the Army Air Corps with USAC Goggle Type B-7. During the Second World War American Optical and Ray Ban provided aviator sunglasses for the military.
In 1958 American Optical introduced the Flight Goggle 58, now known as Original Pilot Sunglasses, and produced them for US military pilots providing maximum protection, comfort and optical performance.
Randolph Engineering, Inc. was formed in 1972, and by 1982 was the prime contractor for aviator sunglasses for the US Department of Defense. Today Randolph sunglasses appeal not only to military pilots but also to all pilots who appreciate the Randolph quality.
In 1999, Bausch & Lomb sold Ray-Ban to the Italian luxury group Luxoticca, and who, in addition to the Ray Ban sunglasses, manufacture the popular Wayfarer sunglasses.