The origins of sunglasses can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient civilizations of Rome and China. Sunglasses later became increasingly popular in the 1800s. Today, a wide variety of sunglasses for women, men, and children is available in almost every clothing retail store. Sunglasses have become a standard accessory in modern times, both as a fashion statement and a tool for protecting our eyes from harmful UV rays.
Here’s an overview of how sunglasses have developed both in fashion and function over the centuries:
Nerowas one of the most infamous emperors of ancient Rome. Ruling from 54 to 68 AD, he was known for his love of luxury and excess. It is said that he was fond of watching gladiator fights in his private amphitheater. To improve his viewing experience, Nero is believed to have used a polished emerald to watch the games. Some say that this emerald was placed on a ring. Others say it was a pair of framed emeralds. Either way, the gem would have acted as a basic lens. Using the emerald to reduce the glare of the sun provided Nero with a more comfortable viewing experience. The use of gems to reduce glare and improve visual clarity was not unique to Nero. Other wealthy Romans were also known to use similar devices.
Nero’s use of the emerald as a lens is not universally accepted as fact. Some scholars have argued that the idea of Nero using a gem to watch the gladiators is simply a legend or a myth. Even if it is a legend, it suggests that the ancient Romans knew the benefits of reducing sunlight’s glare to improve visual clarity. This knowledge would later be foundational in the development of sunglasses.
The use of smoky quartz by the Chinese to protect their eyes from the sun’s glare dates back to the 12th century. Smoky quartz is a type of mineral that has a grayish-brown color. It reduces glare by absorbing some of the light that passes through it. This made it an ideal material for creating tinted glasses that could protect the eyes from the sun’s harsh glare.
The Chinese would cut flat panels of smoky quartz and use them as eyeglasses while traveling on snow or water. Smoky quartz panels reduced the sun’s reflective glare. These panels also shielded the wearer’s eyes against wind, dust, and other debris.
The use of rudimentary smoky quartz lenses by the Chinese people centuries ago laid the groundwork for the development of modern sunglasses. The smoky quartz glasses are also a testament to the ingenuity of ancient cultures in creating practical solutions to their everyday problems.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that the first recorded instance of tinted glasses being used for medical purposes was documented. James Ayscough, an English optician, experimented with tinted lenses to treat certain eye disorders. He believed blue or green lenses could help alleviate vision impairments and light sensitivity. His discoveries largely influenced the popularity and development of protective eyewear.
By the 20th century, sunglasses had become a popular fashion accessory and tool for protecting the eyes from the sun. Hollywood stars in the 1930s, such as Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper, made sunglasses a popular fashion accessory. Companies such as Ray-Ban began producing sunglasses for the masses. The military also played a role in the popularization of sunglasses.
The US Army Air Corps commissioned Bausch & Lomb to create sunglasses for pilots to protect their eyes while flying. This aviator style, among other vintage sunglasses styles, remains popular today. Modern sunglasses come in various styles, materials, and colors and are designed for both fashion and function.
Vintage & Chic: Sunglasses for Women, Men, and Children
Modern sunglasses continue to evolve with new technologies and designs. You can find sunglasses with oversized frames, narrow lenses, traditional frames, multicolored lenses, and many other takes on this timeless accessory. Manufacturers are now adding luxury features like polarized, anti-scratch lenses or blue-light filtration to retro frame styles so wearers can embrace nostalgic fashion trends while protecting their eyes.
If you’re looking for sunglasses for women, men, or children, you can find a wide variety of styles through online companies. Some online retailers carry high-quality, vintage-inspired frames with a modern twist to offer customers some of the most unique eyewear on the market. You can also find prescription, indoor-outdoor adjusting, and multifocal lenses through eyewear retailers. Start searching online product galleries today to find a pair of sunglasses that are stylish and meet your vision needs.