Since the 1930s, aviator-style sunglasses have been a staple among pilots, outdoor enthusiasts and fashion mavens alike -- but where did they come from?
Often thought of as military aviator sunglasses, the iconic style does owe its popularity to the military, but its origin begins long before World War II. According to the New York Times, we have two men to thank for the aviator: test pilots Shorty Schroeder and John Macready.
In the early part of the 20th century, not long after Wilbur and Orville Wright flew the first airplane at Kitty Hawk, pilots began testing the limits of flight: speed, height and distance. It wasn't long before pilots were flying biplanes at 30,000 feet (taller than Mount Everest) and higher. At altitudes like this, the standard air temperature is a frigid -70 °F (-56 °C). To protect their eyes, test pilots wore leather hoods and fur-lined goggles.
In 1920, Shorty Schroeder was flying above 33,000 feet when his goggles became foggy, obscuring his vision. He was forced to take them off so that he could navigate. Within minutes, his eyes had frozen over. He managed to land the plane despite this considerable handicap, and when John Macready helped him out of the plane, Macready was shocked by the grim state of his friend's eyes. In Macready's own experience, the standard-issue goggles were wanting in more ways than one; they weren't dark enough to protect against the harsh sunlight in the upper atmosphere.
Macready began working with Bausch & Lomb to design goggles especially suited to protect eyes from the temperature and the sun's piercing rays. In the 1930s, the teardrop shape now synonymous with aviators was adapted into sunglasses that were marketed to outdoor enthusiasts.
Aviators were adopted by the military during World War II, and photos of military men -- including General Douglas MacArthur -- sporting them quickly catapulted them into popularity. This iconic style is just one more reason why we have to appreciate the brave men and women who served our country yesterday (and today).
Eagle Eyes Aviators
As beloved today as they were almost a century ago, aviators aren't just stylish; their large lenses provide excellent protection against the elements. Here are a few of our best-selling aviator styles.
Serious style, serious performance. The Memory Flex™ Aviator is crafted with an innovative titanium alloy 10x more flexible than steel -- so it can adapt, bend and flex to your needs.
Purchase the Memory Flex™ Aviator now!
The classic aviator style isn't just for daytime! The micro-infused, non-polarized, yellow-tinted lenses of our Night-Lite™ technology will enhance clarity and definition at night while filtering out bright lights.
Purchase the Classic Aviator NL now!
It's a classic for a reason. Featuring TriLenium® polarized lenses developed from original NASA optic technology, these lightweight sunglasses offer protection and style in a class of their own.
Purchase the Classic Aviator now!
There are plenty more! Browse all of our aviator styles.