Sunglasses fashion through the ages – from the 1930s to the present

sunglasses history

It’s almost a hundred years since it first became fashionable to wear sunglasses. Since then, they have been one of our most important accessories for the summer months. Here we take a look at the biggest sunglasses trends over the years.

Every decade has its fashion trends, and that includes accessories like sunglasses. Many of the biggest style icons have used sunglasses as a signature, helping to immortalise certain sunglass styles as well as contributing to fashion trends.

There are some classic models of sunglasses on the market. Often these have both a fascinating history behind them, but the reason for their popularity can also be found in their users. Especially in the world of cinema, which had a great influence during the golden age of Hollywood.

1930s – The first real sunglasses trend

history of sunglasses

It was during the 1930s that the first real sunglasses trend came in the form of the classic pilot bow. It was originally created for practical reasons. Pilots complained of glare and headaches. The solution was polarising sunglasses that covered a large part of the field of vision. This design caught on with the general public and became the first distinct sunglasses trend worldwide.

1940s – Sunglasses find the masses

history of sunglasses

The 1940s was a decade when manufacturing revolutionised the world. Plastic made different colours possible, especially on the frames. It also made their shape bolder. It was now that sunglasses became popular with the masses, thanks in part to the fact that they became cheaper and easier to get hold of.

1950s – sunglasses get their first style icons

sunglasses trends in history

It was in the 1950s that sunglasses became an accessory to be reckoned with in earnest. During this decade we saw male style icons like JFK and James Dean wearing sunglasses in a variety of settings. Female style icons included Marilyn Monroe with her “cat eye” frames. The most popular brand was Ray-Ban, perhaps the greatest sunglasses brand of all time. It was in the 1950s that Ray-Ban launched its iconic Wayfarer, a model that has been hugely popular ever since.

The 1960s – the decade of sunglasses

history of sunglasses

The 1960s was the big decade for sunglasses. Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Audrey Hepburn were seen in big sunglasses and if you wanted to keep up with the trends, that’s how you had to look. Developments in production also made fashion more accessible to the general public and more and more people had the RACE to wear accessories like sunglasses.

1970s – the hippie era makes its mark

sunglasses history

The 1970s saw the arrival of smaller sunglasses. It was style icons like John Lennon who set this trend. The glasses were often small and coloured and quickly became popular with hippies. This trend was strong, but at the same time short-lived as it quickly transitioned into the next decade’s revolt.

1980s – Wayfarers and pilot frames

sunglasses trends in history

In the 1980s, the influence of film was strong in sunglasses fashion. With films like Top Gun starring Tom Cruise, we saw a new heyday for pilot frames and classic Wayfarers. During this decade, materials also evolved and became lighter. Sunglasses were one of the most important accessories in the 1980s, along with huge mobile phones and power suits.

trends sunglasses history

For posterity, the 1990s are not known as one of the great decades in terms of fashion. There was a lot of minimalism, drawing inspiration from films like The Matrix and Men in Black. Lightweight materials with function and really dark lenses were what could be considered the ultimate sunglasses. Additional keywords to describe the 1990s sunglasses trend are sports-inspired.

The 2000s – A fashion statement

trends sunglasses history

The 2000s was the decade when sunglasses on became celebrities’ real signature. Style icons include celebrities such as Bono, Karl Lagerfeld and Paris Hilton. This was a decade when everyone sought their personal style through sunglasses. Therefore, they needed to be eye-catching. It was more about being original than following trends. This made sunglasses a useful accessory to showcase your own unique style.

The 2010s – The range becomes huge

The 2010s became known for their huge range of sunglasses. This was a decade when virtually all famous designers developed their own sunglasses collections. Having sunglasses that suited many different styles and purposes became more common.

The 2020s – Nostalgia trip through the decades

This decade has so far been a nostalgia trip through the decades. Classic sunglasses have become popular and we like to look back in history for inspiration. We can see, for example, the return of the romantic 60s, but also the pure 90s with function and lightweight materials. Natural materials are also becoming more common, where people want to make sustainable choices for the future. As a result, people often choose to wear sunglasses that are made from recycled materials.

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