The history of sunglasses may take us to places we’ve never been and seen before if we start to do some reading. Did you know that, originally, sunglasses were created and developed just for men? Another on the list of “things created first for men”. After sunglasses became an attractive accessory for women, the industry started to concentrate a lot more of its production on women. Therefore, today, we have plenty of options to choose from when buying shades. Lucky us, right?

For those of you interested in some history of sunglasses, I have provided some important ideas below, just a few important facts that lead to the development of this industry, today.

History Of Sunglasses – Origins

The history of sunglasses goes back to Ancient Rome, where sources say that emperor Nero used polished gems to watch gladiator fights, and China, where it is said that sunglasses were used starting with the 12th century. An interesting fact is that in China it is said that sunglasses were used in court when interrogating witnesses, to hide the expression of eyes. They didn’t have any powers to correct sight or to protect against harmful UV rays.

It’s kind of hard to imagine that even today’s sunglasses had precursors and it’s also hard to picture what did they look like. Experiments on tinted lenses began only in the 18th century when James Ayscough thought that blue or green tinted lenses could improve in some way vision problems. People were not concerned by the sun and its damaging effects those days. In the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, yellow (amber) and brown tinted glasses were prescribed for people with syphilis who experienced sensitivity to light.


The first glasses with UVA lenses were produced in Milano, in the 18th century, and were called “gondola glasses”. They were not for everyone, only the nobility would use such glasses to protect eyes from the sun.

history of sunglasses

So how did sunglasses begin to spread all over the world? At the beginning of the 1920s, a lot of movie stars used to wear them. People thought they used shades in order to avoid and stop getting noticed on the streets by fans.

The first cheap sunglasses started to appear almost after ten years when Sam Foster made them from celluloid. He started selling them and after a few years, his sales reached 20 million sunglasses. Few of the people who actually bought them had vision problems.

Ray Ban, famous for the aviator sunglasses, produced its first pair somewhere in the 1930s, in order to provide protection for pilots. After a few years appeared the Wayfarers which today are the best selling shades in the history of sunglasses.

We should remember the year 1936. It is the year when the first Polaroid sunglasses became available. Who is to “blame” for this? Edwin H. Land. He experimented with lenses by making and patented the Polaroid filter.  The rest is… history.

History Of Sunglasses – Functions

After a little bit of the history of sunglasses timeline, let’s talk about the important functions these glasses have. Why do we wear sunglasses? Just for fashion? Or are we also interested in some medical aspects, that wearing sunglasses might help our sight?

Today, the most important function of sunglasses is eye protection against UV rays and glare. The sun stopped being our friend a long time ago, that’s why it’s important to keep our eyes safe. And if this comes with the price of having a stylish accessory on our faces, so be it. The best way to do this is by wearing polarized lenses – they reduce glare water and are perfect for driving in the sun.  

Maintaining a good eye health is not a thing you leave at random. It is so important, we can’t even begin to imagine it sometimes. Sunglasses can prevent macular degeneration, slow down cataracts and prevent from major sunburns. A known fact is that if we can prevent these problems, we can prevent skin cancer in the area around the eyes. 

So, yes, it’s important to buy a good quality sunglasses that protect against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays, offering a good eye protection and to wear sunglasses not just when the sun is up. Gray lenses do not alter the colors and reduce light intensity. Remember this.

History Of Sunglasses – Fashion

What do we know about history? It tends to repeat itself. What do we know about fashion history? It tends to repeat itself. So, when thinking about the history of sunglasses, I am thinking about those ancient circle sunglasses which I never thought will see the light of day again. But they did. And they look amazing, well, after years of “adjustments”. You know the Chanel campaign that featured Lily Rose Depp? Did you like her sunglasses? I did!

As years started to pass, this industry began to create more and more types of sunglasses, designed especially for women and their face shapes. They had to look perfect, right? Today, we can enjoy whatever types of sunglasses we want. And maybe sometimes we feel like sunglasses are more about the fashion and less about the function. 


Some of the most popular types of lenses include polarized, polycarbonate, hi-index, bifocal and trifocal, aspheric, photochromic and progressive. While you stop and think about they type of lens you want, you can also choose some coatings such as UV protection, anti-reflective, blue light protection and scratch-resistant.

After finishing with the lens, you will want a cool frame for your sunglasses. Which should you choose from the various types of them? Maybe the butterfly or cat-eye? How about ovals or aviators? Are you a fan of round or rectangular? Goggles or pilots? Or perhaps you prefer the wayfarers? There is plenty of time to decide what you want. I haven’t written all the types, these are just a few.

Here are some lovely types of sunglasses, maybe you will decide faster what you are looking for!

Von Zipper Edison Sunglasses


Ann Taylor Sunglasses


Banana Republic Johnny’s Sunglasses

Women’s Square Peach Frame Brown Gradient Sunglasses 

Women’s Round Blush Sunglasses

Chloe Gold-Tone Metal Aviator Sunglasses 

Ray-Ban Rubber Iridescent Wayfarer Sunglasses 

Marc by Marc Jacobs Men's MMJ 415/S Oval Sunglasses 

Yves Saint Laurent YSL 2320/S IVU5L Rectangular Sunglasses 

Versace Men’s VE4299 Plastic Pilot Sunglasses 

These are some of my favorite type of sunglasses. I think they’re pretty cool and go to different style, from sporty to edgy. Enjoy your sunglasses and make a fashion statement with them, but also remember why it is important to wear them. Today, with the modern improvements and technology, there’s no wonder where the sunglasses market will go and how it will evolve. One thing’s fore sure: it will evolve and it will be historical. 

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By | 2017-06-13T20:32:18+02:00 January 14th, 2016|Style|

About the Author:

Always an optimist. ♥ to travel, the sun, the sound of waves colliding, the smell of old books, unusual bright colors, reading in bed, black & white photography and vintage decorations. Hate mediocrity.