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The history of sunglasses: design approaches then and now


The oldest sunglasses stem from prehistoric times. The Inuit people fashioned eyewear to block harmful reflected rays of the sun on the snow and ice, and the earliest known historical reference to sunglasses can be dated to the courts of ancient China and Rome.

Flat walrus tusk, polished gems in various colourful hues, and smokey quartz pieces are just some of the materials that these early sunglasses were fashioned from. But how have more contemporary materials and a century's worth of design styles combined together to influence today's spring and summer eyewear trends? Flip through to discover sunglasses; then and now.

The origins of modern design

The use of sunglasses started to become widespread in the early 1900's thanks to 'it' girls and Hollywood movie stars of the time, who took to wearing sunglasses to protect their eyes from the flares of the paparazzi. These frames tended to be more dainty and round in design, and can partly be credited for the association of sunglasses with exclusivity and celebrity. During World War II, sunglasses played a significant role due to the invention of aviator-style glasses. These pilot sunglasses bore the now iconic shape, with a metal frame and brown gradient lenses, and became popular with celebrities and the public alike. These are just a handful of the classic design approaches which paved the way for the trends that were to arrive in the 1950's and beyond.

From function to fashion statement

These initial examples from the early 20th century have their designs rooted in function. However, the following decades saw an explosion of colours and designs which brought sunglasses to the center stage of the fashion and design world. From the tortoise-shell cat eye sunglasses of the 50's and 60's, to butterfly frames in earthy tones like harvest gold and burnt sienna that graced the sunglasses of the 70's, acetate as a material was loved by designers of the time due to its light-weight durability and striking colours.

The 80's brought about many wider design trends considered to be larger than life, and oversized sunnies were no exception. Square or round, chunky white or neon sunglasses and big sports-style wrap-arounds were defining pieces of the decade. But how many of these design traditions have endured into 2022?

New seasons, new styles

SS22 brings forward a host of different frames for eyewear, some of which are a clear nod to the sunglasses of the past. Let's take a look at our favourite eye-wear styles that are having their moments in the sun this spring.

Hard candy-colours

Colour is here to stay. Whether it's candy coloured frames in transparent acetate or lightly coloured gradient lenses, an array of colours will add some fun to your spring wardrobe.

Classic black

Those who favour a more muted look will be pleased to know that chic black frames in an array of classic shapes and sizes are still very much center stage. These designs never let you down, and can easily be paired with a range of outfits and skintones.


Finally, bolder and sporty designs are coming to the forefront for spring eyewear this year. Take your pick from thicker frames and big shapes. You can thank the 80's for this one.

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