The Exciting History of Sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses in order to save your eyesight goes without saying. But, as we know, sunglasses are much more than just an aid. They’re a fashion statement. Both we and celebrities enjoy donning them in a variety of styles. But, have you ever wondered who invented sunglasses and how they came to be? If you want to find out more about them, then read below.

The truth is, long before sunglasses were invented, many people were using some kind of sun protection for their eyes.

In the beginning

The Inuit people in the Arctic created glasses from walrus ivory with small slits sliced into it in order to protect themselves from snow blindness, and they’ve been doing that for 1400 years before deciding to share their secret for protecting the eyes with the Canadians 800 years ago.

These glasses tightly fit against the face so that the only light entering is through the small slits.

The Roman emperor Nero liked to watch Netflix, eeeerm, gladiator fights through a piece of emerald. Pliny the Elder wrote: “When the surface of the smaragdus is flat, it reflects the image of objects in the same manner as a mirror. Emperor Nero used to view the combats of the gladiators upon a smaragdus.”

According to modern scholars, the emerald reduced glare without a drop in clarity and that was soothing to Nero’s eyes.

In China, in the 12th century, sunglasses were made from pieces of opaque quartz. Those sunglasses were not as efficient as today’s glasses, but they cut down on glare, that much is for sure.

18th century

In the 18th century, a man named James Ayscough started experimenting with tinted lenses in spectacles. However, he did not do that to protect the eyes from the sun’s rays but to improve the vision of those with failing eyesight. He believed that by changing the color of the lenses, he could correct various vision impairments. He was wrong about that, but hey, we bet some of his customers looked really cool.

20th century

Sam Foster. That’s the man whose name you should remember if you like sunglasses. He invented them. In 1929, this man, founder of the Foster Grant of Atlantic City put sunglasses into mass production in America.

He sold the first pair of sunglasses the same year on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the rest is history. By 1930, sunglasses became popular and could be found almost everywhere.

A couple of years after the first pair of sunglasses was sold, the Army Air Corps teamed up with the optical firm Bausch & Lomb to create glasses to protect pilots from glare. They came up with a dark green tint that absorbs the light in the yellow band, which proved to be exactly what every pilot needed.

Don’t be quick to thank Bausch & Lomb for that pair of aviator glasses on your nose just yet. For those sunglasses, you need to thank Edwin H. Land and Ray Ban. Mister Land invented Polaroid filters and Ray-Ban designed anti-glare aviation glasses with polarized lenses.


If there were no Hollywood, there would be no sunglasses. Hollywood stars popularized them without even knowing what they were doing. Most actors wore sunglasses to hide the red eyes they sometimes had after filming or to prevent people from recognizing them in the streets.

Even now, in 2017, celebrities still hide behind their designer sunglasses. Big stars like Nicole Kidman and Lady Gaga love hiding behind their cool Prada sunglasses whenever they get the chance, while most male actors prefer Ray Ban glasses.


The 80s were a fun time to be alive. Everything was made out of plastic, including sunglasses. They were big, colorful, and eccentric. The only person who wore simple, white sunglasses in the 80s was Princess Diana.


In the 90s, tiny frames suddenly became popular. Female stars of popular sitcoms, Jennifer Aniston and Julia Louis Dreyfus really brought glasses with tiny frames into the spotlight.

Today, sunglasses are more popular than ever. Fortunately, the trend shifted far away from those crazy shades. However, if you have a pair of big and thick glasses, don’t throw them out just yet, who knows what the next year will bring!