Why do we love sunglasses so much?
2018. június 17. írta: mrfoster

Why do we love sunglasses so much?

Is it because it’s a stylish accessory or a necessary practicality? Is it designed to be a discreet disguise or a tool for seduction? Did you know that sunglasses have a history of several thousand years? Which type are you relying on?


Celebrities of the 20th century in sunglasses: in the picture from left to right Angelina Jolie; John Lennon; Elvis Presley; Janis Joplin; Kurt Cobain


Did you know that indigenous people invented sunglasses?

One wouldn’t believe that sunglasses aren’t an invention of the new era, and that it dates back to several thousand years. We cannot even say that it was invented somewhere near the Equator, since people there are exposed to intense sunlight.

The truth takes us to the northernmost people, the indigenous people who have used “sunglasses” already a few thousand years ago simply out of practicality reasons to avoid snow blindness. In historic time they wore sunglasses made out of bones with narrow slits, which are made today out of wooden planks.



The ancestor of the sunglasses: practical protection made out of reindeer antlers and tendons / Picture source: wikimedia.org


The modern reconstructions of the ancestor of the sunglasses are shown in the pictures. The Inuit people living in the north have cut thin slits into seal or reindeer bones and tied those in front of their eyes to protect them from the exposure to sunlight.


Sunglasses for the emperor!

Allegedly, the first trendsetter in the world of sunglasses was the Roman emperor, Nero, infamous for his cruelty. According to the myth he used refined, green emerald lenses that could filter sunlight in order to protect his eyes in the Arena from the strong intensity, while he was watching the gladiators fight. This wear was very popular among the gentry class, the patricians, but the sunglasses still had to wait a couple of centuries to conquer the world.


Nero inspired the sunglasses: the Australian jewellery retailer, Shiels reached back to the Roman traditions. The company offer sunglasses for 200,000 dollars, which lenses are made out of emeralds, their temple is 18 carat gold ornamented with diamonds.  

Picture source: luxurylaunches.com

Soldiers in sunglasses

The legionaries of the southern part of the Roman Empire in ancient times already used tools to protect their eyes from sunlight. But the real breakthrough came in World War II, when the American Air Force ordered sunglasses with black lenses for protection against UV radiation for its pilots flying high in the sky. General Douglas McArthur, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area, who liked the wear so much that he spoke to the press always in sunglasses, contributed a lot promote them.


On the pictures: Commander McArthur became iconic in his sunglasses. The frame was designed to resemble the early streamlined cockpit windows. Tom Cruise wore almost the same glasses in Top Gun as a pilot, although this type was only used when walking on earth because pilots wore tools for sun protection that were fastened on their head with a belt during sortie.

Hollywood starts to love them too

Only then became sunglasses a universal accessory, beginning from the second part of the 20th century. The movie stars also played also a big role in the proliferation: James Dean, the iconic figure from the 50s was the first person to wear sunglasses on the movie screen and it became immediately the symbol of seduction, mystery and fashion.


James Dean played only in three feature films and became an icon after his early passing. He received two posthumous Academy Awards

Rodenstock was the first company that began to promote sunglasses in 1958, and since they hired such celebrities as Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren for their ads that success was guaranteed. More and more stars began to wear sunglasses in films and in private too because their realized that besides its fashion value it can be used perfectly against paparazzi.


Sophia Loren is the celebrity face of the sunglasses / Picture source: blinkoptic.com



Audrey Hepburn looks really stylish in the hat and the sunglasses in the 50s

The audience copied their idol’s look of course also then and now. At a certain time, the Beatles fans were easy to spot because of their mop-top haircut and their round sunglasses. Celebrities like to wear them ever since because this way they can hide a tiny bit of their private life.

johnlennon.jpgJohn Lennon and the famous round sunglasses


Stylish sun protection and psychological tool

In the sixties the sunglasses became part of our everyday attire and besides being fashionable UV protection became also important. We don’t only wear it as a stylish accessory while sunbathing - many like to hide their eyes also in closed spaces or even at night because the sunglasses lend their wearer also a certain psychological protection. Let’s just think about the saying that “the eyes are the window to the soul”, and we realize immediately how many things we can hide with this little tool on our head.

Divatos fényvédelem és pszichológiai eszköz

A hatvanas évekre a napszemüveg hétköznapi viseletünk része lett, s a divatosság mellett az UV védelem is fontossá vált. Stílusos kiegészítőnket azonban nem csak napozás közben viseljük: sokan szeretik elrejteni szemeiket zárt térben, vagy éppen éjszaka is, mert a napszemüveg egyfajta pszihológiai védelmet is ad viselőjének. Gondoljunk csak arra, hogy a "szem a lélek tükre" s máris rájövünk, mennyi minden elrejthető ezzel a kis eszközzel a fejünkön.

Ezek után vajon kijelenthetjük-e, hogy a napszemüveg örök darab? Mindenesetre Hollywood továbbra is sokat tesz azért, hogy egy-egy kultuszfilm vagy egy botrányosabb sztár percek alatt új divatot teremtsen ezen a téren is. Nézzünk pár meghatározó napszemüveg-pillanatot az elmúlt évekből:


Some say that the world-famous pair from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a big influencer in the party culture.



Madonna in Miu Miu Noir sunglasses; the company organizes a whole collection for the diva.



The unforgettable Man in black movie was also a trendsetter, and the fully dark sunglasses protect us also in a spiritual way because they hide the look of its wearer.



Brad Pitt in Fight Club.



The heart-shaped Lolita sunglasses became famous only from the posters because he doesn’t wear them in the film.


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