The Birth of Aviator Sunglasses
For most of us, it’s not possible to remember a time before aviator sunglasses. For most of us, aviators have stood for style and authority our whole life. Let’s take a look at the evolution of the aviator style.
American Optical began making eyewear designed with new modes of transportation in mind in 1907 when it created driving goggles. With the open design of early automobiles, drivers needed protection not only from sun glare, but also from debris. Many belief these goggles to be the ancestor of the aviator sunglass style.
It became clear that pilots would need eye protection as well and AO began developing flight goggles based off of the successful driving goggles. Aviation legend, Jimmy Dolittle, wore these goggles on his record-breaking transcontinental flight in 1930.
Soon after, in 1935, the US military contracted American Optical to design a pair of sunglasses specially engineered for their pilots, or aviators. The resulting frame, model D-1, is the first iteration of aviator sunglasses.
Since then, the style of aviators has evolved. Bayonet temples were designed to allow pilots to put their glasses on and take them off without removing their helmet. The classic teardrop shape evolved to block more glare and help pilots to see both the skies and their control panels. Today, AO Eyewear’s General frames, a classic aviator style named for General Douglas MacArthur continue to be a best-selling style.