Long before the word ‘fashion’ even existed – in fact in prehistoric and historic times – the Inuit people wore flattened walrus ivory ‘glasses’(although there was no glass) with narrow slits cut across the middle to block the harmful reflected rays of the sun. In 12th century China, smoke tinting was the first means of darkening eyeglasses and Chinese judges routinely wore smoke-coloured quartz lenses to conceal their eyes while questioning witnesses. This way they were able to hide their evaluation of the evidence until the trial’s conclusion.
Fast forward to 1929 when Sam Foster, founder of Foster Grant, sold the first pair of Foster Grant sunglasses on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. By 1930 inexpensive, mass-produced sunglasses were all the rage in America, particularly among movie stars and celebrities. Twenty million sunglasses were subsequently sold across the States in 1937 but it was estimated only a quarter of wearers actually needed them for eye protection.
However the styles didn’t change much from the early twentieth century until the late 1940s. While fashion was at the height of its evolution, sunglasses remained for the most part utilitarian; round, small, metal rimmed and simple.
Designed and introduced for the military in 1936, Bausch & Lomb’s Aviator sunglasses gained popularity with young people in the late 1960s and continues to enjoy worldwide acceptance to this day. Purely at a fashion level, these sunglasses are often made in mirrored, coloured and wrap-around styles.
James Dean and Roy Orbison popularised the Ray-Ban Wayfarer which adopted a more lightweight, plastic-framed design with the trapezoidal lenses wider at the top than the bottom.
The 1950s and ‘60s saw the emergence of the cats-eye style followed by the larger round frame, as famously worn by Jackie Onassis. Audrey Hepburn also popularised the oversized look and John Lennon symbolised the smaller, thin framed, round shaped glasses sometimes incorporating a blue lens.
All these vintage styles retain their popularity to this day and more than ever, sunglasses hold their own on the fashion stage.
So most of us know what vintage era we absolutely love, but there’s another consideration – the shape of our face. Do you know what frames best suit your face?
Here are our handy tips for various face shapes:
- Oval shape – works with most frame shapes but better to err on the smaller sized frames, ones that are ideally no wider than the broadest part of your face, particularly if you have small facial features.
- Round shape – are best complemented by rectangular shaped frames to contrast with the soft curves of your face. We recommend avoiding frames that are too circular or oval in shape.
- Square shape – can take the cats-eye style well. Round or oval frames also work well, softening the angular facial shape.
- Heart shape – can take many styles but it’s best to steer clear of frames that are top heavy or heavily decorated across the top. Cats-eye frames can work well on heart shaped faces, and rimless styles could also be considered.
For a multitude of styles to try, get along to The Sydney Vintage & Retro Fair, Friday to Sunday, September 27 – 29 at Sydney’s Australian Technology park in Eveleigh and check out Catch a Thief’s range of replica vintage sunglasses.
Image credits: Catch a Thief-Tessa Rickard, Audrey Hepburn-Wikimedia Commons movie publicity shots, Wikimedia-Klaus Franke 1969 for Ray Bans, Wikimedia-Bundesarchiv Bild, Wikimedia-John Waters publicity pic.