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What a little Risky Business did for the Wayfarer design.

Ray-Ban Wayfarers have been a staple with American fashion trends since the 50’s. Their design is considered today to be timeless, capturing what was good about the days past, while still remaining youthful and energetic. Today there are a seemingly endless amount of variations, colors, and lens types available that people can choose from, and that only helps to further its popularity across gender and income lines.

JFK and his black Wayfarers JFK and his black Wayfarers

The year is 1952, and Ray-Ban had just released its newest frame design for their sunglass line, called the “Wayfarer.”  They were designed by Raymond Stegeman for use by Bausch and Lomb (former owners of Ray-Ban). These sunglasses were revolutionary for the time, featuring a plastic frame that went against it companies traditional frame styles.  Up until then, all sunglass frames were made of metal, like their popular aviator frame. Bausch and Lomb were able to develop a new molding technique for plastics which helped make these frames stronger than other types of plastic of that era. This combined with a new lens, which had an attractive mirror coating that also helped block out UV rays, meant these glasses had the whole package. This UV protection was provided through a patented process of superheating metal oxides in order to molecularly fuse them to the lenses. This ensures that the process is applied uniformly so viewing isn’t affected.

Its easy to see the resemblance between the fins on this Cadillac and the fins on the Wayfarers. Its easy to see the resemblance between the fins on this Cadillac and the fins on the Wayfarers.

The popularity of these sunglasses spread fast, with movie stars and athletes seen wearing theses shades. Muhammad Ali, Ray Charles, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe were among the early adopters. Even the president of the United States, JFK, was known to wear these glasses! Looking at the design of the glasses in relation to the time period, it’s no wonder why these glasses were popular. The fins on the glasses resemble fins on the popular cars of the day, such as Cadillac.

These glasses remained a very popular piece all the way up until the 70’s where their numbers started to dip. The plastic frames became very unpopular at that time because the round metal glasses that John Lennon wore became the must haves for that decade. By the end of the 70’s the sales for the frame had plummeted to the point of the line almost needing to be discontinued.

The "Blues Brothers" starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd The "Blues Brothers" starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd

This was somewhat remedied in 1980 where the Blues Brothers famously wore these on the big screen, which began to rekindle public interest. Ray-Ban recognized the affect this movie had on sales and then in 1982 they signed a product placement deal to have their products featured in movies and TV shows. The following year, 1983, had the release of the film that would undoubtedly save the Wayfarer line, “Risky Business.”

One of Tom Cruise’s breakout films, “Risky Business” is about a teenager who get involved in some troubling affairs involving an escort and his dad’s Porsche. The film is considered a classic 80’s coming of age film, and was very popular with young adults. The Wayfarer sunglasses are prominently featured in the film, even appearing on the poster for the film itself. After the film was released, Ray-Ban sold an estimated 360,000 pairs of wayfarer by the end of that year. This led to Wayfarers popping up all over TV and other movies, and by 1986 1.5 million have been sold. Ray-Ban aviators also received a huge bump in sales thanks to product placement in movies like “Top Gun” and “Cobra.”

No wonder why these glasses became an 80's Icon! No wonder why these glasses became an 80's Icon!

The 90’s saw yet another decline in sales for the Wayfarer line, and the Ray-Ban brand in general. They released the New Wayfarer model, which is a smaller version of the original that also isn’t tilted. This however wasn’t enough to save the company, and in 1999 Bausch and Lomb sold Ray-Ban to Luxottica.

Since then the Wayfarer line has regained some of its popularity, and Ray-Ban now offers them in a seemingly endless amounts of colors and unique designs. They are popular with celebrities like Robert Patterson and Reese Witherspoon, who are regularly spotted wearing these old school designs. Clearly there is something about this style that resonates with people from all different generations.

If you're interested in purchasing a pair of these glasses check them out here.


Supermodel Cara Delevinge wearing her Wayfarers Supermodel Cara Delevingne wearing her Wayfarers

By Peter Cusumano




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