History of Aviator Sunglasses
The history of Aviator sunglasses starts, as the name would suggest, with pilots. They are sometimes even referred to today as “pilot’s glasses.” Created in 1936 by Bausch & Lomb, they were originally produced as protective eyewear to keep the sun out of the eyes of fighter pilots. But by the second World War, they started to become a fashion statement.
After only a year of production, Aviator sunglasses became available for the public with plastic frames. Ray-Ban is credited as the company that popularized the metal frames that many associate with the style today. Variations on the style were quickly put into production, offering gradient effect on the lenses so pilots had a clear view of the cockpit, while still enjoying the sun protection they came to trust. Additional variations were made for hunters, shooters, fishermen, and golfers. Soon after, female versions would be made.
As the 1950s rolled in, military fashion became the hot trend to influence mainstream fashions, and aviators were a key sub-trend. They even had a film debut in 1957 with Robert DeNiro in the 1976 film Taxi Driver. The traditional aviators were almost lost during the rest of the 1970s and 1980s as disco- and retro-style shades began to take over. Luckily, they had another starring role in Hollywood in the movie Top Gun. Sales reportedly increased by 40-percent after the movie’s release.
Aviator sunglasses have held a cemented role in fashion ever since, with modern styles of Aviator sunglasses including an array of colored lenses and variations on the shape. High fashion has taken the Aviator-style of sunglasses and ran with it, offering exaggerated brow bars, different opacities of tint, and bedazzled and embellished frames. However, the retro and traditional styles are still very much en vogue, with the shape even becoming a hit trend with optical glasses.
Modern Functionality of Aviators
Many people who love Aviator sunglasses today aren’t fighter pilots because there are still many reasons to wear them that are functional. That same characteristic curve that makes them so stylish is also extremely functional. Instead of relying exclusively on nose pieces to hold up your glasses, that stylish curve also keeps your sunglasses in place.
The large surface area of the lenses is also a huge benefit. Of course, it offers plenty of protection to your eyes from the sun, but what about the sensitive skin around your eyes? It’s one of the first places to show aging, with wrinkles, sun spots, and darkening. With the extended lens, you have protection for this thin, sensitive skin keeping you looking young and fashionable for much longer.
Here are some of the best designs for Aviator sunglasses you can buy today:
Of course, the first option for the best designs of Aviator sunglasses is the traditional style. They most closely align with the original design of Aviator sunglasses. The original Aviator design was intended as an option for sunglasses that could be worn under headgear in the armed forces. The first design was contracted by the US military in 1935 and had thin monel, steel, or titanium metal frames, with dark or sometimes reflective lenses.
Today, you can easily find this style of Aviator sunglasses. Many manufacturers still adhere to the same aesthetic as those original Aviators. One example is the Top Dog Polarized Aviator Sunglasses by Carve. Following the traditional design, Carve’s Top Dog Aviator Sunglasses have a metal frame, the characteristic rounded triangle lenses - these have 100% UV Protection, so they are perfect for sunny locations - and the brow bar in the middle.
Because Aviators have such a long history, they’ve seen many decades and eras now considered vintage and it seems that each had its own unique take on the Aviators. The vintage-style design of Aviator sunglasses would be characterized by anything that seems era-specific. For example, in the 70s, plastic became popular, with lenses closer together, sometimes meeting in the middle.
You may also see many tortoiseshell color variations in Aviator frames, an easy way to achieve that vintage look. Some have a hint of a wing at the outer corners, calling to mind the 1950s. If you see an accentuated brow bar, you’re seeing an homage to the Outdoorsman style developed and brought into popularity around 1940.
Angular and Geometric
In recent years, angular and geometric designs of Aviator sunglasses have made a splash. Rather than the rounded triangle style of the traditional design for Aviators, we are seeing hard lines and corners. These might be up around the brow bar area, the upper corners, or in the overall shape of the lens. These can range from a more square shape to multi-sided geometric shapes. For a more modern, interesting take on your Aviators, look for these angular and geometric designs.
Modern and Funky
If you want the most modern design for Aviators, you should check out the funky designs that are quickly becoming a common site. This area of design for Aviator sunglasses is fairly open-ended. It would include just about any quirky, unique feature - or lack there of - that you could think of. Some might have no nose bridge piece. Others could have a unique, fun color for the frames. And there are those that will combine any number of these combinations to achieve a more unique look. If you want Aviator sunglasses that are going to show who you are as an individual, that you care about having a style all your own, these are the designs to look for.
Options for Lenses
Aside from the best designs for Aviator sunglasses, you also have tons of options for the lenses. Many are now polarized. Another option are the colored lenses. A trend that is definitely popular with the Hollywood elite, colored lenses come in nearly every shade. Even a traditional design of Aviator frames can have a pop of color in the lens. Green is a great way to keep your Aviators leaning traditional or vintage. For a more modern and funky look, give tones of blue or pink. You can even have mirrored lenses.
Styling Your Aviator Sunglasses
Because Aviator sunglasses are so well known and a fashion statement in their own right, styling them gives you plenty of freedom. Much of how you style your Aviator sunglasses depends on what design of Aviators you choose.
For traditional Aviator sunglasses, consider going with a clean, simple look, letting your sunglasses do the talking. A plain tee shirt and well-fitted pants with a fresh haircut gives you a modern yet minimalist look that will work just about anywhere. You can also pair your modern and funky Aviator sunglasses with a retro-vintage outfit, matching colored lenses or interesting shapes with a unique outfit. Try grabbing your pair of Aviator sunglasses next time you have to dress up - they easily toughen up an otherwise very proper suit.
For women, you can help your Aviator sunglasses really pop by juxtaposing the traditionally manly shape with a fun and flirty dress. Or, add a cool leather biker jacket for a tough, yet chic look. You can always pair colored lenses to your outfit, or use it as a chance to creatively clash two styles. For an especially retro vibe, try some pin curls and a deep side part.