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ESC, History of Sunglasses

Summer calls for some serious shade. Yes, we mean the fashion-friendly kind that instantly endows you with confidence, an allure of mystery and, most importantly, sun protection. Of course, that's not all sunglasses can do. For more tips, we need only to look to the accessories' storied past.

In their initial iterations, sunglasses took form as emerald gems or flat quartz held up to the eyes of Roman emperors or 12th century Chinese judges to conceal facial expression. It wasn't until the early 1900s that sunglasses found mainstream popularity. It's in these relatively modern decades that we can find plenty of style inspiration.

ESC, History of Sunglasses

A hot trend favored among the likes of Jessica Alba, Rita Ora and other current starlets, mirrored or reflective lenses were first created in 1948 to help protect the eyes from the sun's dangerous rays, according to Mike Evans' Sunglasses.

You know those cat-eyes that magically flatter everyone's face shapes? You can thank the ladies of the ‘50s for ushering the style into popularity. The round bottoms and angular corners provided a feminine flair for ladies like Marilyn Monroe.

The mid ‘50s birthed the ever-classic Ray-Ban Wayferers—sunglasses of choice to heartthrobs everywhere, from James Dean to Robert Pattinson. Don't worry—these sunnies don't discriminate. You can find a pair on many the off-duty model and celebs like Reese Witherspoon and Taylor Swift.

ESC, History of Sunglasses

There was never a music festival that didn't see its fair share of heart-shaped sunnies. But what is now worn as a cutesy accessory was first used to adorn a precociously seductive character in the film Lolita, based off the novel of the same name.

It's believed that round or circular sunnies started it all off, with subsequent designs like the cat-eye stemming thereafter. Silent films actors wore them in the ‘20s to disguise themselves from the public, while it saw favor among the musically inclined in the late ‘60s and through the ‘70s, as evidenced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Although the U.S. military has been wearing the sun-shielding eyewear since wartime, it took a man in a white uniform named Tom Cruise in a little film called Top Gun for us to associate aviator-style sunglasses with badassery.

ESC, History of Sunglasses

Early 2000s
Paris Hilton introduced a lot of gems to us in the early aughts: trucker hats, Chihuahua love and large, oversized sunglasses, to name a few. Although the John Deere toppers didn't survive fashion's fickle fancy, oversized sunnies remain in vogue.

As with other style trends, the latest sunglass silhouettes are a mish-mash of the last century's most innovative designs. Even with mirrored lenses or flashy frames, it's about how you wear it—not how it wears you.