Ray-Ban Wayfarer

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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 logo on the Classic Wayfarer (RB5121)

Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses and eyeglasses have been manufactured by Ray-Ban since 1952, which in turn has belonged to the Italian Luxottica Group since 1999.[1] Wayfarers enjoyed early popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, returning to popularity again in the 1980s through massive product placements. A second revival occurred in the mid-2000s.[2][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 worked for Bausch & Lomb, Ray-Ban's parent company at that time.[7] The design was inspired by, "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] The sunglasses also featured a new plastic molding technology.[2][5]

1970s and 1980s[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 aided in 1980 by the film The Blues Brothers[8], only 18,000 pairs were sold in 1981,[9] and Wayfarers were on the verge of discontinuation.[10] 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.[9] Between 1982 and 1987, Ray-Ban sunglasses appeared in over 60 movies and television shows per year,[9] continuing through 2007.[11] Tom Cruise's wearing of Wayfarers in the 1983 movie Risky Business was one of the key placements[8], and that year 360,000 pairs were sold.[9] Additional appearances in movies like The Breakfast Club, and series like Miami Vice and Moonlighting, led to sales of 1.5 million annually.[9]

Wayfarers were also worn by various musicians, including Roy Orbison, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Rick Astley, Billy Joel, Johnny Marr,[12] Blondie's Debbie Harry,[12] Madonna, Depeche Mode, Elvis Costello,[12] and members of U2[12] and Queen, as well as public figures such as Max Headroom, Jack Nicholson,[13] and Anna Wintour.[14]

The novels of Bret Easton Ellis often contain references to Wayfarers.[15] Lyrics that mentioned the style of glasses included Don Henley's 1984 song "The Boys Of Summer", which contained the lyric "You got that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on, baby". Corey Hart's music video Sunglasses at Night shows the artists wearing Wayfarers in darkness. In response to these placements, Ray-Ban's Wayfarer expanded from two models in 1981 to about 40 models by 1989.[16][17]


Ray-Ban New Wayfarer sunglasses (RB2132 901L)

As the 1990s began, the frames again became unpopular.[18] The 1950s revival that fueled the glasses' popularity in the 1980s lost momentum, and Wayfarers were outcompeted by wraparound frames.[18] During the slump of the 1990s, Ray-Ban's parent company, Bausch & Lomb was facing pressure from competitors like Oakley. In 1999, Bausch & Lomb sold Ray-Ban to Luxottica Group S.p.A. of Italy for $640 million.[19] 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.[18] 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).[18]


Wayfarers were brought back into fashion in the late 2000s when public figures including Chloë Sevigny and Mary-Kate Olsen began wearing vintage frames.[20][21] When Ray-Ban noticed that vintage Wayfarers were selling for significant prices on eBay,[18] a 2007 re-introduction of the original Wayfarer (RB2140) design was initiated.[12][18][22] The RB2140 model is identical to the original B&L5022 model, except the metal "studs" on the temple arms were 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.)[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]


In September 2021, Ray-Ban and Facebook Reality Labs announced a collaboration for smart glasses including Wayfarers with built in cameras called Ray-Ban Stories.[26]

Similar designs[edit]

Then-incumbent U.S. President John F. Kennedy wearing American Optical Saratoga sunglasses which resemble Wayfarers while on vacation at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, August 1963 (just 3 months before his death)
The sunglasses worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, although often identified as Wayfarers, are actually "Manhattan" by Oliver Goldsmith.[27]

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".[28] 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.[25] Between July and September 2008, retailers began selling frameless Wayfarers.[29]


  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 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 Bland, Simon (3 August 2020). "Dan Aykroyd and John Landis: how we made The Blues Brothers". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d e Leinster, Colin. "A Tale of Mice and Lens." Fortune (September 28, 1987).
  10. ^ August, Melissa et al. "Through A Glass Darkly." Time (July 12, 1999).
  11. ^ 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).
  12. ^ a b c d e Hirschlag, Jennifer. "Ray-Ban Tunes in to a New Generation." Women's Wear Daily (November 13, 2006).
  13. ^ Spade, Kate. Style. Simon and Schuster (2004), p66. ISBN 0-7432-5067-2.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Ellis, Bret Easton. Less than Zero. Vintage Contemporaries (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.
  16. ^ Norris, Scott. "Boosting the Hottest Shades Under the Sun." Rochester Business Journal (Oct. 9, 1989), section 1, p10.
  17. ^ MJ. "Style Spy."[permanent dead link] GQ.com (October 2007).
  18. ^ a b c d e f Rushton, Susie. "Ray Ban Wayfarer spec-tacular revival" The New Zealand Herald. (May 06, 2007.)
  19. ^ "COMPANY NEWS; BAUSCH & LOMB SELLING SUNGLASS BUSINESS TO LUXOTTICA". The New York Times. April 29, 1999. Retrieved 2014-10-27.
  20. ^ Brown, Laura. "Mary-Kate Olsen's Singular Style". Harper's Bazaar (September 23, 2007).
  21. ^ Toulin, Alana. "The 'IT' list for 2008". The Ottawa Citizen (December 29, 2007).
  22. ^ "Ray-Ban Wayfarer Relaunch." Wallpaper (January 25, 2007).
  23. ^ Ray-Ban. Official website Archived 2007-05-18 at the Wayback Machine (2007). Accessed October 7, 2007.
  24. ^ Brunelli, Richard. "Ray-Ban Wayfarers: Made in the Shade" Adweek (October 1, 2007).
  25. ^ a b Brown, Rachel. "A Blast from the Past at Vision Expo West" Women's Wear Daily (October 8, 2007).
  26. ^ "RAY-BAN STORIES".
  27. ^ Campbell, Craig (5 May 2017). "80 years of Ray-Bans: Shades don't come much cooler than these! - Sunday Post". Sunday Post. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  28. ^ Magsaysay, Melissa. "New riffs on the Wayfarer". Los Angeles Times (November 4, 2007).
  29. ^ Demasi, Laura. "Sunny outlook". The Sun-Herald (Sydney, Australia) (July 6, 2008).

External links[edit]