Vintage Sunglasses as featured in 1960s Newspaper

During the twentieth century the role of spectacles evolved dramatically, transforming a largely functional object into the ultimate fashion accessory. The concept of fashionable spectacles, opposed to them serving simply as a medical necessity was revolutionary, defining a whole new concept and industry.  Eyewear was now a fashion accessory, instead of hiding their glasses away, people could enjoy wearing them and be playful and experimental in their choices.

So how were the iconic designs of vintage sunglasses developed? Who was responsible for making them and why are they still so popular today? By looking back through the history books we can pinpoint exact moments in time that were transformational to the industry, from developments in material, to the rise of celebrity….each historical event has made a significant impact on both the design aesthetic and the way we wear eyewear today.


The cat-eye is one of the most popular retro sunglasses worn by women.  Its distinctive shaping features an upswept curve that follows the brow-line then elegantly lifts at the corners in a feminine and stylish flourish. The rise of this sunglass shape is due to not only to its flattering angles but also to the rise of celebrity and the silver screen.  Movie icons such as Marylin Monroe and Audrey Hepburn were seen wearing cat-eye frames in their films, which ignited a flurry of excitement and cemented the cat-eye as one of the most iconic eyewear shapes of all time.  In fact, Oliver Goldsmith was one of Audrey Hepburn’s most favoured eyewear designers, with the actress wearing his designs in many of her films, including the Yuhu in ‘Two for the Road’, the Manhattan  in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and the Hep in Charade.

Aviator Sunglasses are vintage sunglasses that remains relatively unchanged.  Originally designed by Bausch and Lomb in the 1930’s for pilots, it was a welcomed alternative to the fur-lines googles they had been used to wearing. Developed specifically for aviation, the aviator was thinner, lighter and more comfortable to wear.  The classic teardrop lens shape ran along the cheek line, protecting the eyes from the suns glare and aiding in visibility at altitude. Despite its utilitarian functionality, the aviator was seized by the fashion industry and by the 1940’s had become one of the most popular mens sunglass styles.

Certain sunglasses have become synonymous with the celebrity that wore them.  The Wayfarer is a prime example of this.  The actor Tom Cruise wore the classic Ray Ban Wayfarer in black in his film ‘Risky Business’ which sky-rocketed the design to cult status.  It’s also impossible to imagine the Blue’s Brothers without their iconic wayfarer sunglasses.

The Teashade is another vintage sunglass design that can trace its popularity back to almost one celebrity: John Lennon.  This iconic shape was also designed by Oliver Goldsmith and in December 2019, Lennon’s Oliver Goldsmith ‘Cluj’ round sunglasses were sold by Sotheby’s for an eye-watering £137,500.

Lastly, the ‘Jackie O’s’ must be included in the list of classic sunglasses.  The moniker derives from Jackie Onassis, a former first lady of the United States who became an international style icon during the 1960’s.  Famed for her modern and chic outfits, her style appeared so effortless and timeless that she inspired countless trends, one of which was the Jackie O sunglass.  Almost all her outfits were accented with oversized dark sunglasses, a look that became synonymous with not only Jackie herself but the era as a whole.