The evolution of sunglasses begins with flat slabs of smoky quartz in 12th century China. Over time they have become an example of function and fashion, with historic ties to the military and Hollywood.
In the luxury goods market, vintage sunglasses with a provenance rich in celebrity, have commanded five figures at auction. However, vintage examples in near mint condition, manufactured by notable designers, can be had for less than $100. While fashion is often cyclical, certain styles of sunglasses remain ageless. Here are eight examples of classic couture eyewear:
Several brands of designers include sunglasses in their portfolio of products. For example, this pair of vintage gold metal sunglasses is from the line of Christian Dior. Note the CD logo embossed on the temple.
Yves Saint Laurent
Inventor James Ayscough first incorporated blue-green tinted glass in spectacles in the mid-18th century. He believed that the tinted glass would assist those with impaired vision. The influence of Ayscough’s early experimentation can still be seen in modern sunglasses. This pair of vintage brown women’s eyewear, from Yves Saint Laurent, features semitransparent blue, gradient lenses.
Aviator-style sunglasses have their roots in the Army Air Corps. During World War I the military sought help from Bausch & Lomb to develop eyeware that would block the glare of sun encountered by combat pilots. That collaboration resulted in the style of sunglasses represented in this pair of Carrera Aviators.
Each year on June 27 the Vision Council sponsors National Sunglasses Day. The purpose is to recognize the importance of UV-protective eyeware. Models such as this pair of Lotus Sport brown tortoise frame sunglasses include 100 percent UV protection lenses.
From the earliest of times sunglasses were part of the “uniform” of the wealthy. Some used them to block sunlight, or in modern times shield eyes from the bright lights of movie sets. Still others used them to conceal their identity or prevent others from viewing their emotional responses. The oversized wrap frame of this pair of modern black/gray sunglasses by Roberto Cavalli serves both purposes.
This pair of women’s sunglasses with a Tennessee black and rhinestone frame from Vogue is an example of the element of design incorporated in couture accessories. Before frames, the temples of sunglasses would be made of ribbons affixed to the glass and looped around the wearer’s ears.
Fendi’s oversized rimless sunglasses are the latest evolution in eyeware frames. The rimless sunglasses feature a polybycarbonathe one-piece lens with the temples affixed directly to the lens.
This vintage pair of El Charro aviator-shaped sunglasses feature Polaroid lenses. In 1936, about a decade after mass-production of sunglasses began, Edwin H. Land used a Polaroid filter to create sunglass lenses.
Click to view the selection of designer accessories, including sunglasses, currently available on LiveAuctioneers.com.
By C.A. LEO