The Origin And Development Of The Aviator Sunglasses


Colonel John A. Macready of the US Army Air Corps is working with Bausch & Lomb, a medical device manufacturer based in Rochester, New York, to develop aviation sunglasses to improve the vision of pilots at high altitudes.

Colonel John A. Macready


The first sunglasses ever contracted by the United States Air Force (U.S. Army Air Corp) was the model D-1 made by American Optical. The design of the model includes a hinged bridge. The specific dark green color of the lenses reduced the glare of the bright blue sky and improved sharpness and contrast at the same time.

Model D-1, American Optical
© photo from Moss Lipow


The Bausch & Lomb prototype, made in 1936 and known as ‘Anti-Glare’, had a plastic frame and also green lenses. It was sold to consumers under the brand name ‘Ray-Ban’ in 1937 and in 1938 impact resistant lenses were added.

Model Shooter, Bausch & Lomb
© photo via Ray-Ban
In 1938 Bausch & Lomb launched the ‘Shooter’ model. The middle circle, above the bridge of the nose, is the “cigarette holder”, specially designed to keep the recreational user’s hands free.
The top bar and the ends of the legs have been covered with different materials over the years, including pearl and calf leather.


The D-1 sunglasses were released by the U.S. in November 1941. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Navy replaced by the more comfortable AN6531 sunglasses: ‘The Comfort Cable’. This is the ultimate classic style of aviator sunglasses that we know today.
Different producers; American Optical, Bausch & Lomb, The Chas. Fischer Spring Co. and Willson, made and supplied the frames and lenses. The frame design varied slightly from contractor to contractor.

Model AN6531, American Optical
© photo via ebay


The aviator sunglasses became iconic when General Douglas MacArthur landed on a beach in the Philippines in World War II in October 1944. Newspaper photographers took several photos of him wearing his glasses, creating a lasting image of World War II.

General Douglas MacArthur


After the war, Bausch & Lomb introduced a variant of the AN6531 sunglasses to the general public, and now again under the patented brand name ‘Ray-Ban’. Most of the other contractors who produced the AN6531 sunglasses also sold a variant of their model to consumers. The popularity of the sunglasses increased enormously, partly due to the association with the US military. The fashionable model was soon incorporated into several films by Hollywood and many movie and pop stars followed the trend.

Top left corner: Marlon Brando (movie ‘The Wild One’) – Top center: Bruce Lee – Top right corner: Jim Morrison
Big image: Robert Redford (movie ‘The Three Days Of TheCondor.’)

Pilot sunglasses should be part of your collection. Just like the above Hollywood stars, these glasses give you a great fresh look. View our collection of aviator sunglasses in the store.

Of bekijk de uitgebreide collectie pilotenzonnebrillen op

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