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Aviator Sunglasses

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

There is no style of eyewear more iconic than aviator sunglasses.

(Image: GQ)

Whether worn by Tom Cruise in Top Gun or Kendall Jenner on the streets of Beverly Hills, the versatile, casual style of aviators has made them an enduring fashion choice for decades.

Characterized by a teardrop-shaped lens, flexible temples, and thin metal frames with a double or triple bridge in the middle, their generous lens size makes them great for bright days (or just looking cool). With all the hype around them, you may wonder, how were aviator sunglasses invented? The answer is an interesting history lesson…

In the 1920s - the early days of flying - pilots quickly realized that they needed to protect their eyes when flying at high altitudes, where the air was frigid. They wore leather hoods and fur-lined goggles for protection but often fogged up and were uncomfortable. So in 1935, the U.S. military developed the first pair of aviator glasses, in conjunction with a company called American Optical (now AO Eyewear). Their D-1 aviation eyeglasses, which covered the entire field of a pilot’s vision, were made with a rigid frame and designed to be worn under flying headgear.


At the same time, other companies were also working to see who could make the best aviator sunglasses. U.S. Army Colonel John A. Macready partnered with Bausch & Lomb, a manufacturer of medical equipment, to create a pair of darker anti-glare glasses that would also protect pilots’ eyes against the bright blue and white colours in the sky. After several years of development, they released their prototype, called “Anti-Glare,” in 1936, with plastic frames and green lenses for an anti-glare screen. They went on sale to the public in 1937. In 1939, Bausch & Lomb redesigned their polarized aviator sunglasses with a metal frame, calling them Ray-Ban Aviators - the style we still know and love today!


During World War II, aviators became even more popular. General Douglas Macarthur wore the reflective sunglasses as he landed on a beach in the Philippines in 1944, and the resulting newspaper photos helped make them an iconic, cool look. Throughout the 20th century, they would also be worn by other celebrities, including Elvis Presley, Gloria Steinem, Michael Jackson, and - yes - Tom Cruise.


Today, there are lots of options for those who want to get the aviator look for themselves. Some manufacturers produce polarized aviator sunglasses for protection against the sun’s UV rays, and designers have made them in a variety of lens colors, from classic green to sepia and even pink. Square aviator sunglasses and oversized aviator sunglasses are also available for a slightly different look. Wear corrective lenses? No problem - many optical shops sell prescription aviator sunglasses, from Ray-Ban as well as other brands. (If you buy aviator prescription glasses, make sure to opt for the anti-reflective coating to reduce glare!)

Red House Vision Centre is proud to offer a variety of aviator sunglasses and prescription aviator glasses from quality eyewear brands that you know and trust, including Ray-Ban. Visit us today to see the latest aviator styles!

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