By Randy Harding
Sunglasses are versatile and worn by just about everyone for various reasons. I will outline their many purposes, the styles of sunglass frames, in addition to types of lenses. Furthermore, I will explain why buying sustainable sunglasses is responsible and eco-friendly. Here’s what you need to know about sustainable sunglasses.
- History of Sunglasses
- Importance of Sunglasses
- Types of Sunglasses
HISTORY OF SUNGLASSES
The Inuit constructed the first sunglasses over 2,000 years ago to protect their eyes from the glare and blowing snow in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. Made of wood, antler, bone, or ivory, they had horizontal slits that were big enough to see out of but small enough to protect from blowing snow and ice, and glare that could damage the eyes.
More modern sunglasses, constructed with thinly sliced pieces of smoky quartz, appeared in the 1100s in China. By the 1700s, Venetians used tainted glass while riding in gondolas. The glass shielded their eyes from the sunlight glare coming off the water in the canals.
In 1772, a drawing of Antoine Lavoisier, a scientist who worked with amplified sunlight, depicted him wearing shaded glasses to protect his eyes during an experiment. Lavoisier, considered one of the founders of modern chemistry, knew the importance of protecting his eyes from sunlight’s harmful rays.
Sunglasses produced with UV protection in 1899 were the first known to protect against both glare and ultraviolet light. Lenses made with glass using cerium were further improved in 1913 by British scientist Sir William Crookes. Those sunglasses could completely block 100% of harmful UV rays.
The beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey, provided a demand for sunglasses in the late 1920s. Sam Foster sold his brand of Foster Grant sunglasses there. Sunglasses were mass-produced and began to grab a foothold in both society and fashion from
that point forward.
The use of sunglasses to protect pilots’ eyes became very important in the 1930s after several mishaps with goggles. As a result, the US Air Force collaborated with several companies and began providing their pilots with specially manufactured glasses.
Polarized sunglasses were produced in the late 1930s by scientist Edwin H. Land, co-founder of the Polaroid company. Land used his unique polaroid optical filter to block harmful light polarization and allow non-harmful light.
IMPORTANCE OF SUNGLASSES
Sunglasses are essential for many reasons. For example, corrective lenses help those with poor eyesight to see better. It gets harder to see as we grow older, especially when driving. In addition, driving at night or in bright sunlight can be a challenge for visually impaired people.
Shaded or polarized lenses protect your eyes from the harsh effects of sunlight. For example, since the 1930s, the US Air Force has saved the eyesight of many pilots by issuing them specialized aviator eyewear.
Similarly, protective eyewear, invented in 1880, adds a barrier of protection against splashing liquids or flying particles. In addition, there are safety sunglasses with reinforced frames and lenses which also have sun protection. So you get the best of all three protections in a
Finally, sunglasses help you look and feel good about yourself with trendy and stylish frames and lenses. For example, there are designer frames and just about any style you can imagine. Throw in lenses of different hues and colors, and you have a fashion statement that works for anyone.
TYPES OF SUNGLASSES
Sunglasses come in all types, shapes, sizes, and colors, from Aviators to Octagonal. They can be manufactured of plastic, wood, metal, glass, bone, and stone. No matter what they are made of, there is a type of sunglass that fits you, your personality, and the look or statement you want to make when others see you wearing them. Here are the types of sunglasses for you to ponder.
Invented in the 1930s by Bausch & Lomb to block harmful sunlight rays from the eyes of US Airforce pilots, Aviator sunglasses have become quite a fashion trend. Initially marketed in 1937 to the public using the Ray-Ban name, they used plastic frames with the classic pilot goggles’ teardrop shape.
Anyone can wear these sunglasses underneath a cap, hat, or helmet. Their lenses are primarily dark and reflective. They usually have titanium or steel frames with temples that shoot straight back before they slightly curve around the ears. Designed with a double or triple bridge, they are comfortable, sturdy, and steady.
Aviators first became popular in 1944 when General Douglas MacArthur wore them while landing on a beach in the Philippines. In 1986, Tom Cruise wore them in the blockbuster movie Top Gun, and the rest is history. Aviators are one of the most popular sunglass styles in the world.
Wayfarer sunglasses, designed by Bausch & Lomb, mimicked the shape and curve of Cadillac tail fins and Eames chairs which became popular in the mid-1950s. With a familiar trapezoid shape, the glasses are daring and masculine.
These sunglasses became popular when Audrey Hepburn donned a pair of Wayfarers in the 1961 hit movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. After that movie, celebrities wearing them included President John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and Muhammad Ali.
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd revived the Wayfarer brand in the 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers. Belushi only removes his Wayfarers once during the entire film, so its popularity skyrocketed from that point forward.
In the 1983 blockbuster Risky Business, Tom Cruise catapulted the brand even higher with his Wayfarers while portraying a brash young high school student’s foray into the business world.
Round sunglasses first debuted in the 1920s with Foster Grant on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. They enjoyed popularity until aviators and other shapes of sunglasses captured the majority of the market share.
After that, it was approximately 1965 until round sunglasses returned to relevance. Hippies and the anti-war movement utilized them to symbolize defiance and rebellion. With the addition of bright-colored lenses and stylish frames, they embraced them as both a political and fashion statement.
Round sunglasses became enormously popular when Janis Joplin wore them at Woodstock in 1969, and John Lennon used them as part of his signature look in the ’70s and ’80s. In addition, celebrities like Ozzy Osbourne and Elton John helped round sunglasses become even more mainstream.
Cat-eye sunglasses were first created in the late 1920s by American designer and filmmaker Altina Schinasi Miranda. Inspired by the Harlequin masks made in Venice, Italy, Miranda created sunglasses to help women feel and look attractive.
The creation of the new Harlequin style coincided with the invention of the pantoscopic tilt. This innovation allowed the frame to tilt down onto the wearer’s face, thus allowing for a better and more attractive fit.
In 1939, Lord and Taylor were so impressed with Miranda’s design that they bestowed the American Design Award for transforming women’s sunglasses into a fashion accessory.
Cat-eye sunglasses enjoyed renewed popularity in the ‘50s, led by famous actresses like Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. Marilyn Monroe carried that momentum into the ‘60s, and stars like Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift have appeared donning this style.
When you watch any old episode of “I Love Lucy,” if Lucille Ball wears glasses, they are cat-eye glasses. Ball helped make the style an American icon during her long-running television series.
Clubmaster sunglasses were invented in the late 1940s by Shuron, a competitor of Bausch & Lomb. They showcase browline frames with thick frames over the top of the lenses. They also have a thin frame, usually constructed of metal, that wraps around the lenses’ bottom.
Their popularity skyrocketed in the 1980s when Bruce Willis wore a pair of Clubmaster sunglasses in his popular television show Moonlighting. Unfortunately, their popularity waned after Michael Douglas wore a pair of sunglasses in the movie Falling Down, and they were negatively stereotyped by movie audiences.
Wrap of wrap-around sunglasses do as they are named; they wrap around your face. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wore these shades in the 1960s, and their popularity skyrocketed.
Popularly worn for many outdoor sports, these sunglasses began being used extensively by athletes in the ’90s. Cyclists, track and field stars, Olympic rowers, and many other outdoor sportspeople are showcasing wrap sunglasses to help cut glare.
Heart or heart-shaped sunglasses have been around for decades. They are stylish sunglasses with heart-shaped frames that make an artistic fashion statement whenever they are worn. Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film Lolita showcased these fashionable sunglasses as well as Hollywood stars Harry Styles and Lana Del Rey.
The 1960s ushered in the era of square-shaped sunglasses. Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Montgomery, who starred in Bewitched, could be see sporting these trendy, thick-framed sunglasses in white. Francois Hardy, the face of 1960s French pop, also used these shades as part of her look and popularized them in Europe.
Today, both rebels and trendsetters wear these retro sunglasses to accent their wardrobes or make a statement.
Oval frames and magnifying lenses were first developed in the 1700s by Benjamin Franklin, so they can be considered one of the first shapes of frame widely used in the US. Furthermore, the sunglasses became synonymous with the promiscuous European upper class in the 1800s due to the syphilis outbreak and resulting sensitivity to light.
Music icons like Tupac Shakur and the Princess of Pop, Britney Spears, rocked these oval shades in the ‘90s, and consequently, their popularity exploded. Hollywood stars and music icons are still wearing these sunglasses today.
Rectangle sunglasses first appeared in the 1960s when Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis made them popular. So yes, the same icon who popularized wrap-around sunglasses also became the trendsetter for rectangle shades.
Hollywood icons like Brad Pitt and Kourtney Kardashian, and pop stars like Justin Timberlake and Dua Lipa, regularly wear these rectangle-shaped frames.
Created in the 1950s, butterfly sunglasses gained significance until 1961 when Audrey Hepburn wore a pair in the iconic movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. As a result of the movie’s immense popularity, the butterfly style also became highly popular.
From that point onward, any woman seen wearing the style was considered a fashion icon. The style’s hype then carried over into men’s fashion.
Hexagonal and Octagonal Sunglasses
Hexagonal sunglasses have six and octagonal eight sides. Both configurations appeared for the first time in the 1940s as part of the trend that saw a variety of shapes become popular for the first time.
Fashion trendsetters were looking for that accessory that made a statement. They found it in the multi-sided sunglasses, which defied the traditional round and oval shapes worn at that time.
Frames are the backbone of sunglasses. They can be wood, metal, nylon, plastic, cellulose acetate, and more sustainable plant-based polymers. In addition, they range from full-rimmed to rimless. Each type of frame, when paired with a lens type and color, creates an accessory that can be trendsetting or make a fashion statement.
The material in your sunglass frame is important because it affects safety, comfort, cost, and durability. If you want inexpensive frames that are lightweight and durable, then nylon is the way to go.
Metal and acetate are more expensive options, but they are less durable and impact-resistant. Metal also heats up in the sun and, like acetate, is not intended for use while competing in sports.
There are also more sustainable options like cotton-based acetate and plant-based polymers, which are more expensive but are non-petroleum-based and durable.
These frames wrap entirely around the lenses and create the body of the sunglasses. The full rim is also considered more secure in holding the lenses in place and is more practical when the lenses are heavy glass.
Rimless frames are as their name describes, without a rim. Instead, the lenses connect by an arch or piece above or part of the bridge. The arch and temples attach through holes drilled through the lenses, and the five elements become one.
Semi-rimless frames only have a partial rim that holds the lenses in the sunglasses. These frames have become more popular due to their style and lower weight and comfort. In addition, these shades are more sturdy and durable than rimless frames.
Low Bridge Frames
Low bridge frames offer larger nose pads for additional support and comfort. However, other frames can create problems for the wearer, like slipping and movement. Low bridge frames may work well for you if you find yourself constantly pushing your glasses up onto your nose.
Wire frame sunglasses were first invented in the early 1900s and were an iteration of wire-rim glasses with tinted lenses to block certain types of light prescribed by doctors in the 1800s for upper-class Europeans with syphilis. These popular frames utilize thin metal wire to hold the lenses in place and are also used to make the temples.
Sunglass lenses come in several types, colors or tints, materials, and with different coatings. Eye health is extremely important. One of the most critical features of the lenses you choose for your sunglasses is the amount of light that comes through the lenses to your eyes.
This is called Visible Light Transmission (VLT) and is affected by the type of material used, its thickness, color or tint, and coatings. The lower the VLT, the more ideal the sunglasses are for bright and sunny conditions. The higher the VLT, the better for dim or overcast conditions.
Ophthalmologist Dr. Rishi Singh, President of Martin Health at the Cleveland Clinic in Florida, recommends choosing glasses that block both UVA and UVB light. Dr. Singh says, “There are a bunch out there. You want to buy them from a reputable manufacturer.” He also says, “Select amber or brown lenses if you have macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy. These colors enhance contrast, which can help you see better. But a high UV rating is more important than lens color if you have to choose.” So make sure to choose a pair that best fits your needs.
TYPES OF LENSES
Polarized lenses filter out damaging horizontal rays of light that reflect off of other objects like glass, cars, snow, or water. Only the vertical beams are allowed through the lenses and they are much easier on your eyes.
As a result, they substantially reduce glare and reflection and make it easier for your eyes to see. They are perfect for snow or water sports and sunny areas.
Polarized lenses can be a problem with some tinted auto windshields, as they can lower your visibility and even create blind spots. Check how your lenses react with your tinted windshield before you wear them while driving.
These lenses are unique because they automatically adjust to the amount of ultraviolet B (UVB) light conditions and their intensity. As a result, they lighten when there is little available UVB light and darken when there is more light.
Unfortunately, photochromic lenses do not work while driving a car because the UVB rays cannot penetrate your windshield. They also adjust more slowly the colder the conditions.
According to WebMD, blue light has benefits that boost alertness, help memory, and improve attention span. However, too much blue light, especially at night, can harm your sleep patterns by stunting your brain’s release of the sleep hormone melatonin.
These next-gen lenses combat eye strain caused by exposure to blue light from electronic devices like televisions, computers, tablets, smartphones, fluorescent and LED lighting, and the sun. In addition, their unique coating optimizes visual comfort and performance by filtering the amount of blue light allowed to reach your eyes.
Standard or regular lenses are those without polarization or photochromic features. These are still the most widely used because they don’t create problems with tinted windshields and are not slow to adjust due to cold weather conditions. They are also available in any color or tint, material, or coatings.
COLORS OR TINTS
The color of your sunglass lenses determines how much visible light gets to your eyes. It also affects how you perceive contrasts between shaded and sunny areas and how you see colors.
Light lenses have yellow and red colors or tints. Some examples would include gold, amber, maroon, and rose. Designed for low to moderate-level light conditions, these lenses enhance depth perception and visibility. They are great for snow sports and rock climbing, where shadows and light may not be optimal.
Dark sunglass lenses include blue, gray, green and brown colors or tints. These include silver and the bright green or blue tints. Dark tints reduce the strain that bright light brings to your eyes, including the glare you experience on sunny days. Unlike blue, gray, and green tints, brown tints may also distort colors.
Depending on the material used, your sunglass lenses will vary in cost, durability, weight, and clarity. Glass is the most expensive and heavy option, but offers the best scratch-resistance and clarity.
Polycarbonate lenses are a type of plastic that is more impact-resistant, less scratch-resistant, provides decent clarity, and is lighter in weight than other plastic lenses. It is also more affordable than glass or polyurethane lenses.
On the other hand, polyurethane lenses are expensive because they possess the highest impact-resistance, clarity, and flexibility. In contrast, acrylic lenses are the cheapest because of their low durability and clarity.
The higher-quality sunglasses you buy most likely have several lens coatings. The most common is the mirror or flash coating which covers the outside surface of sunglasses and makes them reflective. This coating reflects the light hitting the surface of the lens and consequently reduces glare. In addition, this coating is often combined with lighter colors or tints to offset the effect that makes objects appear darker than they are.
More expensive sunglasses also often have an anti-scratch coating to help the lenses last longer, an anti-fog layer, and a coating to repel water. Make sure to ask about the available coatings on the sunglasses you are looking to purchase so you get what you need and want.
Sustainability has found its way beyond fashion and accessories and into sunglasses. Fortunately, there are eco-friendly alternatives to the most widely used environmentally threatening petroleum-based products.
Unfortunately, most sunglass lenses today use petroleum-based products like polyurethane, nylon, or polycarbonate. Sustainable options include mineral glass, a combination of sand and soda ash when tempered (heat hardened), which increases the surface hardness to resist scratching and breaking. Glass is harmless to humans and animals and endlessly recyclable.
There are recycling practices related to plastic lens shavings (SWARF) that some companies have implemented. However, over 6,000 tons of shavings a year usually end up in landfills or oceans. Recycling practices can play a significant role in sustainability if most companies just implement them.
Sunglass frames are usually plastic, but wood and acetate are sustainable alternatives. If the acetate used is bio-acetate using cotton or other plant material, without synthetic plasticizers, and manufactured in a strict European Union (EU) environment, you can be fairly sure it is an earth-friendly choice. The EU regulations for chemical use and working conditions in manufacturing are extremely stringent, so workers and the integrity of materials utilized in manufacturing are protected.
Wooden frames and temples in sunglasses are becoming a more popular alternative to harmful plastics. In addition, sustainably sourced wood continually removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by ensuring that more wood grows than harvested. The wood is either continually regrown through replanting or effective forestry management.
Hardwood is an excellent choice because approximately twice as much hardwood grows per year as is harvested. Other useful and popular woods are bamboo and cork. As long as sustainably sourced, wood is an excellent alternative to plastic or metal.
Metals and plastics require a much more significant amount of energy to process and produce than wood. Wood is also bio-degradable and recyclable. In addition, it is incredibly durable and attractive when used for frames and temples. Metal used in wire frames is still a better option than plastics.
Sustainability has not only become a choice in choosing fashion, accessories, and shoes; it has become a necessity for maintaining human life on our planet. The effects of global warming are real, and we must do everything possible to cut down the production of greenhouse gases and increase the planting and growth of carbon dioxide consuming plant life.
There are dozens of choices when it comes to purchasing sunglasses. Whatever you decide on, please remember that they should fit snugly on your nose and ears, but not so much that they are uncomfortable or chafing. Also, your eyelashes should not be touching the lenses or frames.
Choose sunglasses that make you feel good about yourself and how you look when you are wearing them. Choose the colors that best fit your personality and overall look. Get two or three if you can’t decide on just one pair. There are so many styles and colors to choose from that you can find options that suit you.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to choose sunglass lenses that protect your eyes. UVA and UVB light can cause a myriad of eye problems, including macular degeneration, cataracts, and damage to both the cornea and eyelid.
eVogued has a large selection of sustainable and stylish European sunglasses to help make your choice easier. Check out the models and colors that we have in stock here, and remember that every pair has free shipping.