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The History of Sunglasses

Most people own at least one pair of sunglasses. Whether it’s a pair of cheap no-name sunglasses or one from an expensive brand is rather subordinate. Sunglasses are sunglasses no matter the price. Therefore most people know what a pair of sunglasses look like today. They looked nothing like this when they were invented more than 10.000 years ago, though. Actually their original design was very simple and primitive, but they were very protective against the sun.

The history of the sunglasses starts at a much colder location than where most people use them today. The first sunglasses were invented by the Eskimos in Greenland. Because of the climate and almost year-round coverage of snow in cold places, the hunting conditions were quite difficult, especially when the sun was shining and the snow and ice reflected the beam of the sun and made them incapable of hunting optimally.

The Eskimos invented what we today consider the first pair of sunglasses to solve these problems of the sun. They were very simple and primitive but incredibly effective! The sunglasses were made of tree, bone or teeth from animals such as narwhales. By cutting narrow cracks or a single bigger crack in the material, the Eskimos had a tool which protected their eyes from the sunrays and the reflections from the snow and ice and thus were the hunters more effective and dangerous during the hunt. The sunglasses were invented as a necessary tool to avoid the hunters getting blind from the snow and therefore incapable of capturing food for their families.

Since then there’s happened a lot to the design and the materials of which we make sunglasses today. About the year of 1100 the Chinese judges in different competitions used sunglasses made of thin, brown quartz. The reason for this was for the keep the competitors from being able to read the emotions off the judges’ faces. This way the competitions had the fairest conditions for all those attending.

The sunglasses we know today weren’t developed until the start of the 19th century. Comically enough it was the silent movies that made sunglasses popular. Because of the sharp lights in the studios in which most of the movies were captured, many silent actors wore sunglasses. It went very quickly from here on, and in a few years the sunglasses were coveted worldwide!

In the last 10 to 15 years the development of sunglasses has been taking on very quickly. These days all the bigger brands have a collection of sunglasses which they develop and expand every year, therefore the selection of brands and models have exploded. Also the innovation within design and comfort has been huge. Where they used to be very simple design-wise, today you can get sunglasses in all sizes, shapes and with all kinds of details on the frames. Each individual pair of sunglasses is also often available in many sizes, shapes and colours.

What materials are sunglasses made of?

Sunglasses are made from many different materials today, and that’s why we’ve tried to make an overview of the most used materials and a short explanation to each of them.

  • Acetate - A flexible plastic material among the most used, especially within the big designer brands. Acetate is flexible and very durable, which makes it easier for the sunglasses to resist smaller bumps and hits.
  • Metal - Several kinds of metal are used for sunglass fames. The most brands mainly use titanium and aluminum since these weigh less than most other kinds of metal and are flexible and comfortable to wear.
  • Wood - Lots of the newer brands have started marketing themselves on producing sunglasses of sustainable wood. It’s the frame itself that’s been cut in special types of wood such as bamboo, tea-tree and rose tree amongst others. Sunglasses made of wood have the same good comfort as plastic sunglasses, but they’re better for the environment.
  • Leather - Leather is particularly used for details or for covering a frame of metal. Sunglasses of leather have been getting very modern within the last couple of years.
  • Optyl - A very elastic plastic material which both frames and glass can be made of. It’s very used because of the flexibility.

Sunglasses in general

As earlier mentioned, the sunglasses were originally invented for practical reasons. Of course they still have a practical function today, but sunglasses have become just as much of an accessory.

Since the new millennium sunglasses have been given a more important position in our modern fashion society. They still protect your eyes against the sun and its reflections, but today sunglasses are also an expression of your life and fashion style. Today these factors are almost as important as the practical function. That is the reason why all labels make sunglass collections, since the demand for sunglasses is huge. This applies to all from cheap sunglasses from H&M to expensive designer sunglasses from Tom Ford.

Today many choose their sunglasses with great care because it’s important that the sunglasses send the right signals to their surroundings. Are you in on the latest fashion tendencies or are you a casual person? Do you have a retro-kind of fashion style or do you want the radiance of a diva? Are the sunglasses pop or classic? Are they from the hottest brand or design of the moment?

There are lots of considerations to do behind a sunglass purchase, and because of the fashion many own several pairs of sunglasses to wear depending on the style of clothes they’re wearing.

Even though the actual function of sunglasses is to prevent us from getting blinded by the sun, more and more people wear sunglasses all year round, even at night time, too. Sunglasses are an important fashion accessory, and therefore a regular part of the outfit whether it’s day or night.

Famous Hollywood celebrities, sports stars and so on boost the focus on sunglasses. Particularly Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie, Pink and Victoria Beckham are the media’s favorites when it comes to sunglass fashion. These four women always wear the newest model of sunglasses from the hottest brands. They have even become live advertisements for several brands since everybody’s keeping an eye on them.

Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Valentino, Gucci, Chloé, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi and so on are just some of the many brands that have benefited from the advertising from especially Jessica Alba and Angelina Jolie.

Amongst men Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Bruce Willis can be mentioned as some of the biggest advertisers. These three men often wear sunglasses when published in the press or different fashion magazines.

Whether you like it or not sunglasses will probably stay a fashion accessory from this day on. We live in a time with extremely great focus on each individual’s style and lifestyle, and therefore it would be illogical for anybody to remove such an important accessory as sunglasses have become. To many people the summer and spring fashion consists of light summer clothing and sunglasses, and that is probably going to be very hard to change if the weather is good and the sun is shining.

Markings and Protection

EU has made a marking scheme also known as norm EN1836 which categorizes all sunglasses into categories, depending on the amount of light which is allowed through the glasses. It’s a scale of 5 categories from 0 to 4. All sunglasses for sale in the EU must have a category filter number matching the brightness. Sunglasses of category 4 should not be worn while driving and ignoring this warning is highly recommended against. Sunglasses of category 4 have a powerful brightness and there are limits to how much they prevent sunrays from penetrating the glasses and blinding the person wearing them.

  • CAT. 0 - Very subdued brightness - suitable for driving
  • CAT. 1 - Weak light and darkness - well suitable for driving
  • CAT. 2 - Medium light and darkness - well suitable for driving
  • CAT. 3 - Powerful brightness - can be used while driving, but are not optimal
  • CAT. 4 - Very powerful brightness - must NOT be used while driving!

Advantages and disadvantages of sunglasses

Sunglasses are not flawless. They have both lots of advantages, but also a few disadvantages that are worth being aware of! Here are lists of the things promoting and discouraging the use of sunglasses no matter which design, price or brand. There are general things to be aware of.

Advantages

  • Protect the eyes from the harmful sunrays
  • Make sure that you’re not blinded but the sunbeams or their reflections
  • Make the traffic safer because of the above
  • Add a smart and modern look. Sunglasses are made in all shapes, sizes and colors today
  • If you choose the right sunglasses, most sunglasses fit so well that they don’t bother you when you’re wearing them. Many people actually don’t notice them except from their tinted eyesight from the color of the glasses.
  • They don’t take up any space so you can easily fit them in your pocket, your purse or simply let them sit in your hair.

Disadvantages

  • Many mistakenly believe that sunglasses protect from cataract. This has not been proved, not even if your optician claims so.
  • Many also mistakenly believe that wearing sunglasses makes you capable of looking directly towards the sun without any risks. Even if you are wearing sunglasses, it is still recommended that you do not look directly at the sun.
  • Most sunglasses ranging from cheap to expensive have glasses of such fluctuating or poor quality that it annoys the eyes while wearing them. This is why more and more people experience getting tired or even dizzy if they wear sunglasses for a long time. Oakley sunglasses are one of the few brands where the glasses have been processed to avoid this.
  • Some brands sell sunglasses that are supposed to be UV protective and so on, but the fact is that even though it says so on the package, a note or on the glass itself, this is not always the case. Especially cheap sunglasses from China tend to be problematic.
  • Many sunglasses get scratched easily, even if you take good care of them.
  • Even if you buy expensive sunglasses, they are not always resistant to pressure or bumps. It really sucks when an expensive pair of sunglasses breaks without you barely touching them.

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