A Short History of Sunglasses

Sunglasses were never initially invented for the purpose of protecting the eyes from the sun. In fact, they were invented during the time of the Chinese dynasties when their judges had to wear dark-tinted glasses to protect the people from discerning their facial expressions through the eyes.

The dark tint on the glasses was achieved by taking flat cuts of quartz and using a smoke tinting method very much different from the glass and plastic lenses that are simply popped into the glasses’ frame today. Of course, having a dark tint also gave the people the ability to protect themselves from the sun but they didn’t really use it for that purpose.

The other uses for sunglasses only came about in 1430 when Italy introduced eyeglasses that could correct vision. After that year, little by little, sunglasses were used for correcting vision and sun protection but they were still mostly used by the judges to prevent people from reading their expressions.

The term “sunglasses” wasn’t even used back then; they were commonly known as spectacles. It was only until the mid-18th century that James Ayscough, an English man, introduced the idea of using green or blue tinted glass to correct vision. Although sun protection wasn’t his main goal, he had a passion for experimenting with different colors of specs for eyeglasses and he hoped that he could find a way to make them readjust a person’s vision.

During the 20th century, sunglasses rapidly become the newest trend. At first, it was only a trend among movie stars who needed them to protect their eyes from stage lights. Before filming, they would wear sunglasses to prevent their eyes from drying out. Wearing sunglasses prevented their eyes from looking too tired and bloodshot on camera. Because of the celebrity trend, mass production was soon underway in 1929, spearheaded by an American man named Sam Foster. The trend picked up, beginning in New Jersey where everyone wore them at the beach. Soon enough, everyone on the streets were wearing a pair of sunglasses.

Through the years, as developments in technology emerged, the world was introduced to Polaroid film. This was in 1936 when Edwin H. Land founded the Polaroid Corporation, producing films that filter and polarize light for a very economical price. Consequently, they infused this invention with glasses to create what we now know as the polarized sunglasses.

Before anyone knew it, sunglasses boomed all over the world. Americans, movie stars, music artists, and virtually anyone wore them as a symbol of looking trendy. It became more of an accessory than protection for the eyes. Some people even believe that they became popular because of soldiers that wore them during World War II. Young people who looked up to the soldiers saw them wearing the sunglasses and readily followed the trend.

The existing craze for sunglasses still wasn’t enough for the people; they just had to have more. This happened in the sixties when fashion became a major part of the culture. Foster Grant, a comb and glass firm, helped the sunglasses industry to skyrocket by influencing famous celebrities and fashion designers to escalate the trend.

Today, protection from UV rays is coming back as a major concern when outdoors. Specialized sunglasses for all kinds of purposes are now available in the mainstream market. You can take your pick through different tints, lenses, frame shapes and sizes. You can get them for vision correction, UV protection or simply for fashion. There are even some sunglasses that reflect a tint only when they absorb sunlight. Indeed, the sunglasses industry is continually developing even more technology for the future of UV protection and in the name of fashion.