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The History Of Designer Sunglasses

Mar 2, 2008
You may believe that sunglasses were invented just so the rich and famous could pose on sunny days in designer shades. This however is a misconception; the history of sunglasses goes back centuries and their use has not always been dedicated to shielding ones eyes from the sun.

The first recorded use of sunglasses is far removed from the contemporary designer models we see today; although the relative price was most probably comparable. It is believed that Emperor Nero of Rome used polished emeralds to shield his eyes when watching gladiatorial bouts. The designer of this pair however could not have been very adept as the glasses were actually believed to act as a mirror and obstruct the emperor's view.

The next recorded evidence of sunglasses comes from ancient China; again the designer chose to use natural elements rather than glass. Predominantly used by judges, they were constructed from flat panels of smoky quartz. Instead of protecting the eyes like modern designer sunglasses they were created to prevent those in court reading the judges' emotions and facial expressions while they were being interrogated.

These early sunglasses were in no way comparable to the modern designer sunglasses we see today. They had no UV protective qualities to shield the eyes from the sun's harmful rays, although they did reduce glare. Ancient sunglasses also had no correctional properties for those with visual defects.

The use of sunglasses then diminished for eons until the eighteenth century when they experienced somewhat of a renaissance. The work of James Ayscough who experimented with tinting the lenses of contemporary spectacles could be considered the first modern sunglasses designer. He felt that by using certain colours such as green and blue, specific visual defects could be corrected. Once again protecting the eyes from the sun's rays was not a major consideration.

It was the Americans who truly embraced sunglasses as a designer fashion item during the twentieth century. It was the work of Sam Foster that led to sunglasses being produced to protect people's eyes. Always the entrepreneur, Foster sold his sunglasses on the beaches of New Jersey and Atlantic City.

During the 1930s sunglasses first became polarised after the efforts of Edwin Land. Using a polaroid filter that held a patent, these were the first shades that could be considered 'designer.' It was not until this time that movie stars and musicians started to wear the fashion items and causing their popularity to skyrocket. From this point on the fashion emphasis overtook the desire to protect eyes. Certain people at this time started to wear the designers specs when the weather was dull and even indoors.

From this point on the UV protection factor has been twinned with fashion requirements. Legislation was produced to ensure all sunglasses met an industry standard that would ensure people's eyes were suitably protected. Styles have changed many times in accordance with other fashions; while glasses have also been produced for use in specific sports.

A current trend in the production of modern designer sunglasses has been the marrying of prescription magnification with style. This move has catered for those who already wear glasses and allows them to have unobstructed sight with the benefit of UV protection. Added to this technology has allowed responsive lenses to be created that react to bright sunshine, ideal for driving where to dark a tint can sometimes be dangerous.

From their beginnings in the Roman period, this rich history has created one of the world's most hotly desired fashion items. With so many designer labels now producing glasses of their own there is little doubt that the trend of wearing shades will go from strength to strength.
About the Author
Fashion expert Thomas Pretty looks into the history and development of designer sunglasses. To find out more please visit http://www.site91.co.uk/
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