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Aviator sunglasses are a style of sunglasses that were developed by Bausch & Lomb. The original Bausch & Lomb design is now marketed as Ray-Ban Aviators, although other manufacturers also produce aviator style sunglasses. They are characterised by dark, often reflective lenses having an area two or three times the area of the eyeball, and very thin metal frames with double or triple bridge (so-called ″bullet hole″) and bayonet earpieces or flexible cable temples that hook behind the ears. The original design featured G-15 tempered glass lenses, transmitting 15% of incoming light.
Aviator sunglasses, or "pilot's glasses", were originally developed in 1936 by Bausch & Lomb for pilots to protect their eyes while flying, thus the name aviator.
The Aviator became a well-known style of sunglasses when General Douglas MacArthur landed on a beach in the Philippines in World War II and newspaper photographers snapped several pictures of him wearing them. Lastly Bausch & Lomb dedicated a line of sunglasses to him in 1987. The style was also issued to and found popularity with the French Army.
Moderately popular throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Aviators became mainstream between the 1960s subculture which favored metal rims over plastic. Thus, the model became a symbol of 1970s-era (primarily disco) fashion, being ubiquitous not only as sunglasses but worn as prescription glasses as well.
By 1980 however, the glasses' popularity stalled because of the disco backlash prevalent, and the sunglasses industry (including Ray-Ban) was heavily hit by this. To save the ailing Ray-Ban, Bausch & Lomb signed a multi-million product placement deal in 1982, which featured the brand's models in films and TV shows. The Aviator model was notoriously present in Cobra and Top Gun. In 1986, Aviators saw a 40% rise in sales.
In the 1990s, Ray-Ban once again faced hard times. The backlash against 1980s fashion proved to be a huge blow to the company, which was sold to Luxottica in 1999. Around that time, a revival of the hippie movement that made the framestyle so popular, as well as the popularity of Jackass led to a renewed boom for Aviators during the 2000s.
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- U.S. Patent D292,984
- Gary S. Messinger: The battle for the mind – War and peace in the era of mass communication. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst 2011, ISBN 978-1-55849-853-2. p. 131–132
- Christopher Klein: 10 Things You May Not Know About Douglas MacArthur. On May 22, 2014 at history.com
- Arthur Asa Berger: Media and communication research methods – An introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches. Sage, Thousand Oaks 2011, ISBN 978-1-4129-8777-6. p. 66–67