The History of Aviator Sunglasses

Jean-Michel Jarre and Charlotte Rampling

The Shape That Defined an Era

Aviator sunglasses have their roots in aviation, hence the name, with the history of these frames dating back as far as the 1930s. They were originally designed by Bausch & Lomb, a company that was known for producing optical equipment for the US military.

In 1936, the US military commissioned Bausch & Lomb to create sunglasses that would reduce glare for pilots, as they were experiencing problems with the bright sun during their flights. The result was a pair of sunglasses with a distinctive teardrop shape and metal frame, originally referred to as ‘pilot’s glasses’ they soon came to be known as aviators.

The sunglasses became popular among military pilots, on and off duty, but were soon reappropriated into the wider fashion lexicon of the time when they started to appear on some very well known faces outside of aviation.

The Swinging Sixties and Mainstream Appeal

In the 1950s and 1960s, aviator sunglasses had a huge surge in popularity when they started to be worn by Hollywood megastars like Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen, and musicians like Mick Jagger and David Bowie who were also just beginning to enjoy international stardom.

David Bowie
Mick Jagger
Charles “Pete” Conrad and Gordon Cooper after landing of Gemini 5
Bianca Jagger

In the 1980s, aviator sunglasses experienced another resurgence in popularity due to the blockbuster Top Gun movie. Tom Cruise’s character wore a pair of aviator sunglasses throughout the film which catapulted the aviator back into public consciousness.

Modern Aviators

Today, aviator sunglasses are still a popular alternative to thicker frames, as they are often made from lightweight materials. Our Aurum Collection are constructed from an ultra-lightweight Swiss stainless steel alloy which is plated in either 18K Rhodium, 18K Rose Gold, 24K Yellow Gold or a combination of each precious metal.

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