Ray-Ban Wayfarer

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This article is about Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses. For other uses, see Wayfarer (disambiguation).
Classic 1980s Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses (picture shows model B&L5022, another one named B&L5024 is also available, which is 2 mm wider at the nose bridge but identical otherwise)

Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses have been manufactured by Ray-Ban since 1956, which in turn has belonged to the Italian Luxottica Group since 1999.[1] The once American frames are now made in China.

Wayfarers have been called a classic of modern design[2] and one of the most enduring fashion icons of the 20th century.[3]

Design and early popularity[edit]

Figure 1, US design patent #169,995.

Wayfarers were designed in 1952 by American optical designer Raymond Stegeman,[4][5][6] who procured dozens of patents for Bausch and Lomb, Ray-Ban's parent company at that time.[7] The design was a radically new shape, "a mid-century classic to rival Eames chairs and Cadillac tail fins."[5] According to design critic Stephen Bayley, the "distinctive trapezoidal frame spoke a non-verbal language that hinted at unstable dangerousness, but one nicely tempered by the sturdy arms which, according to the advertising, gave the frames a 'masculine look.'"[5]

Ray Ban Wayfarers, which took advantage of new plastic molding technology,[2][5] marked the transition between a period of eyewear made from thin metal frames to an era of plastic eyewear.

1970s slump and 1980s comeback[edit]

Actor Corey Feldman wearing Wayfarers at the Academy Awards, 1989

After Wayfarers' heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, sales declined.[5] Though Wayfarers' cultural popularity was boosted in 1980, particularly due to the classic film The Blues Brothers, only 18,000 pairs were sold in 1981,[8] and Wayfarers were on the verge of discontinuation.[9]

The sunglasses' fate was reversed, however, when in 1982 Ray-Ban signed a $50,000-a-year deal with Unique Product Placement of Burbank, California, to place Ray-Bans in movies and television shows.[8] Between 1982 and 1987, Ray-Ban sunglasses appeared in over 60 movies and television shows per year;[8] Ray-Ban's product placement efforts continued through 2007.[10] Tom Cruise's wearing of Wayfarers in the 1983 movie Risky Business marked the beginning of a Wayfarers phenomenon; 360,000 pairs were sold that year.[8] By 1986, after appearances in Miami Vice, Moonlighting, and The Breakfast Club, sales had reached 1.5 million.[8] Wayfarers rose to popularity among musicians, including Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Johnny Marr,[11] Blondie's Debbie Harry,[11] Madonna, Depeche Mode, Elvis Costello,[11] and members of U2[11] and Queen, and among other celebrities such as artificial intelligence Max Headroom, Jack Nicholson,[12] and even Anna Wintour.[13] Bret Easton Ellis' fiction often name-dropped references to Wayfarers,[14] and Don Henley's 1984 song "The Boys Of Summer" contained the lyric "You got that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on, baby". Canadian pop artist Corey Hart's music video Sunglasses At Night shows the artists wearing Wayfarers in darkness. Ray-Ban's Wayfarer offerings expanded from two models in 1981 to more than 40 models by 1989,[15] and Wayfarers were the decade's sunglasses of choice. [16]

1990s decline and 2001 redesign[edit]

Ray-Ban New Wayfarer sunglasses (RB2132 901L)

As the 1990s began, the frames again became unpopular.[17] The 1950s revival that fueled the glasses' popularity in the 1980s lost momentum, and Wayfarers were outcompeted by wraparound frames.[17] In 2001, the Wayfarer underwent a significant redesign (RB2132), with the frames made smaller and less angular, and changed from acetate to a lighter injected plastic.[17] The changes were intended to update the frames' style during a period of unpopularity and to make them easier to wear (the frames' previous tilt made them impossible to perch on top of one's head, for instance).[17]

Luxottica buyout[edit]

During the slump of the 1990s, Ray-Ban's parent company, Bausch & Lomb was facing pressure from competitors like Oakley. In 1999, Bausch & Lomb along with Ray-Ban was purchased by Luxottica Group S.p.A. of Italy for $640 million.[18]

Late 2000s comeback[edit]

Although these people were most likely not directly responsible for the renewed interest of the Wayfarer, Wayfarers were brought back into fashion in the late 2000s when celebrities including Chloë Sevigny and Mary-Kate Olsen began wearing vintage frames.[19][20] The 2008 film Twilight features vampire Edward Cullen sporting a pair of black Wayfarers at school and in 2010 Grammy-nominated pop singer Katy Perry sports a pair of black Wayfarers in her "Teenage Dream" music video. Bruno Mars also is seen sporting Wayfarers in the music video "The Lazy Song". Ray-Ban designers soon noticed that vintage Wayfarers were commanding high prices on eBay,[17] and the 2007 re-introduction of the original Wayfarer (RB2140) design aimed to respond to the demand.[11][17][21] The RB2140 model is identical to the original B&L5022 model, except the metal "studs" on the temple arms have been replaced with the Ray-Ban logo and the right lens now bears the logo as well. (As of 2007, Wayfarers were available in Original Wayfarer, New Wayfarer, and Wayfarer Folding styles.[22]) Ray-Ban's marketing strategy was threefold: a return to the sunglasses' original, rebellious design, an "edgy" advertising campaign and "high-profile PR events", and the use of new media like MySpace to connect with consumers.[23] Sales in 2007 were 231% greater than in 2006 at Selfridge's London;[6] as of October 2007, the Wayfarer was the Luxottica Group's third-best-selling style.[24] As of July 2008, sales had increased 40% over 2007[6] and is currently available in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

Similar designs[edit]

John F. Kennedy wearing American Optical Saratoga sunglasses which resemble Wayfarers while on vacation at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, August 1963.
The sunglasses worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's are not Wayfarers. The model worn is in fact "Manhattan" by then popular brand Oliver Goldsmith.[25]

Others who prominently wore sunglasses resembling Wayfarers are Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, Jack Nicholson, Scott Weiland and (during the later seasons of Miami Vice) Don Johnson.[26][27][28][unreliable source?]

During the 2000s Wayfarer revival, many sunglasses designs inspired by the original Wayfarers were produced by designers unaffiliated with Ray-Ban. Grey Ant's Grant Krajecki designed a larger, cartoonish version of the glasses "so extreme that [they] are best worn by those with a good sense of humor".[29] Other Wayfarer-inspired sunglasses included Oliver Peoples' Hollis, REM Eyewear's Converse, and various designs in Juicy Couture, Hugo Boss, Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs's and Kaenon Polarized 2008 lines.[24] Between July and September 2008, retailers began selling frameless Wayfarers.[30]


  1. ^ "Company News: Bausch & Lomb Selling Sunglass Business to Luxottica". NY Times. April 29, 1999. Retrieved September 5, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Delap, Leanne. "I wear my sunglasses at night". The Globe and Mail (July 12, 2008).
  3. ^ Derrick, Gabrielle. "The world's favorite shades turn 40". The Age (October 3, 1993).
  4. ^ Stegeman, Raymond F.E. Front for Spectacle Frames. US Patent #169,995.
  5. ^ a b c d e Bayley, Stephen. "Notes & Theories: Through a Pair of Glasses Darkly." The Independent on Sunday (June 18, 2006).
  6. ^ a b c Walker, Esther. "Geeky but chic". Independent Extra (July 3, 2008).
  7. ^ Google patent search for Raymond Stegeman. 70 of 72 patents issued to Stegeman were assigned to Bausch and Lomb.
  8. ^ a b c d e Leinster, Colin. "A Tale of Mice and Lens." Fortune (September 28, 1987).
  9. ^ August, Melissa et al. "Through A Glass Darkly." Time (July 12, 1999).
  10. ^ Passariello, Christina. "Return of the Wayfarers: Luxottica revamps once-cool Ray-Bans with an eye to women." The Wall Street Journal Europe (October 27, 2006).
  11. ^ a b c d e Hirschlag, Jennifer. "Ray-Ban Tunes in to a New Generation." Women's Wear Daily (November 13, 2006).
  12. ^ Spade, Kate. Style. Simon and Schuster (2004), p66. ISBN 0-7432-5067-2.
  13. ^ Oppenheimer, Jerry. Front Row: Anna Wintour, the Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor-in-Chief. St. Martin's Press (2005): p215. ISBN 0-312-32310-7.
  14. ^ Ellis, Bret Easton. Less Than Zero. Vintage Comtemporaries (1998) (originally published 1984): p121, 122, 203. ISBN 0-679-78149-8.
    Ellis, Bret Easton. The Rules of Attraction. Simon & Schuster (1987): p25, 40, 122. ISBN 0-671-62234-X.
    Ellis, Bret Easton. American Psycho. Vintage (1991): p70, 71, 81, 224, 242, 257, 394. ISBN 0-679-73577-1.
  15. ^ Norris, Scott. "Boosting the Hottest Shades Under the Sun." Rochester Business Journal (Oct. 9, 1989), section 1, p10.
  16. ^ MJ. "Style Spy." GQ.com (October 2007).
  17. ^ a b c d e f Rushton, Susie. "Ray Ban Wayfarer spec-tacular revival" The New Zealand Herald. (May 06, 2007.)
  18. ^ "COMPANY NEWS; BAUSCH & LOMB SELLING SUNGLASS BUSINESS TO LUXOTTICA". The New York Times (Arthur Sulzberger Jr.). April 29, 1999. Retrieved 2014-10-27. 
  19. ^ Brown, Laura. "Mary-Kate Olsen's Singular Style". Harper's Bazaar (October 1, 2007).
  20. ^ Toulin, Alana. "The 'IT' list for 2008". The Ottawa Citizen (December 29, 2007).
  21. ^ "Ray-Ban Wayfarer Relaunch." Wallpaper (January 25, 2007).
  22. ^ Ray-Ban. Official website (2007). Accessed October 7, 2007.
  23. ^ Brunelli, Richard. "Ray-Ban Wayfarers: Made in the Shade". Adweek (October 1, 2007).
  24. ^ a b Brown, Rachel. "A Blast from the Past at Vision Expo West". Women's Wear Daily (October 8, 2007).
  25. ^ Vintage Ray-Ban ad
  26. ^ Manolo for the Big Girl Blog
  27. ^ Ka_Kaos Blog
  28. ^ History of Wayfarers
  29. ^ Magsaysay, Melissa. "New riffs on the Wayfarer". Los Angeles Times (November 4, 2007).
  30. ^ Demasi, Laura. "Sunny outlook". The Sun Herald (Sydney, Australia) (July 6, 2008).

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