1960s Sunglasses

Sunglasses of the 1960s fell into at least two distinct groupings of styles. On the one hand, the sixties counterculture produced a wide proliferation of fun, colorful styles of sunglasses but which were, in general, inexpensively crafted and sold for modest prices attainable for the youth of the period. Teashades was the terms used to describe typically wire rim sunglasses that were embellished in various ways by the psychedelic art of the period. Also referrred to as "John Lennon glasses" or "Ozzy glasses" after Ozzy Osbourne, teashades grew progressively more popular over the years of the 1960s and the growth of the anti-war movement. The original teashade design featured perfectly round lenses that trended small to medium in diameter which were supported by celluloid nose pads to support them and a thin wire frame for the ear stems. From there, teashades evolved into all the colors of the rainbow and shapes never before envisioned as the original style was embellished with multi-colored and mirrored lenses and sizes which grew progressively oversized. The vintage 60's sunglasses in this grouping did not focus on high quality materials nor on advanced lens technologies to better protect the eyes. Rather, they were meant as a fashion statement of the times and usually worn for purely aesthetic purposes. For example, the "LOVE" glasses of the 1960s were impractical and had little real effect as sunglasses, and yet they became widely popular in the later years of the decade and, for that matter, are still widely reproduced today. Celebrities and rock stars of the 1960s favored teashades and their variants because they looked good and tended to make a social statement. Celebrities in the sixties who were seldom photographed or filmed not wearing vintage teashdade style sunglasses include John Lennon (The Beatles), Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones), Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Roger Daltrey (The Who), and Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath).

 

At the same time, companies such as Bausch & Lomb and their Ray-Ban group were pioneering ever more advanced and innovative lens technologies that provided complete UV protection and performance in their sunglasses - and while not forsaking style. Aviator sunglasses, first introduced by Ray-Ban in 1937 in response to demand from the U.S. military for high performance sunglasses for pilots, became mainstream in the 1960s. While vintage aviators have always been popular with pilots, military, and law enforcement personnel, the sixties saw them widely adopted by people of all ages - in general, the antithesis of the counterculture movement that was adopting much more extreme sunglass styles such as teashades. To be current with the times, Ray-Ban aviators began to be produced with lenses other than the classic B&L G-15 green lens. The company introduced B-15 brown and highly reflective mirrored lenses for their classic aviators, and sunglasses with specialty lenses were introduced for hunters and outdoorsmen (shooter sunglasses, Kalichrome C yellow lenses), ambermatic sunglasses (suitable for all light conditions), and Changeables (photochromatic lenses which quite literally change color as you go from indoor to outdoor light conditions). These much more practical sunglasses that really protected the eyes were diametrically opposite in style and purpose from the teashades and the sunglasses of the 60's hippie counterculture. Other mainstream manufacturers of high quality sunglasses during the sixties included Persol and Neostyle, whose Neostyle Nautic 2 was the oversized style popularized by Elvis Presley. The mineral glass lenses that were used by the higher quality brands of this period had excellent optical quality but they suffered the disadvantage of being fairly heavy.

 

For a combination of quality and style in sunglasses that came of age in the sixties, none is better known and loved than the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer. Wayfarers are a plastic framed design for sunglasses first introduced by B&L Ray-Ban in 1952 but widely popularized in the 1960s. Wayfarer sunglasses feature trapezoidal lenses which are wider at the top than the bottom and give them their distinctive retro style. Wayfarers were worn by James Dean and a few other celebrities in the late 1950s, but they became wildly popular in the 1960s and were seen on a variety of faces from Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie Breakfast At Tiffany's to folk singers and musicians such as Bob Dylan who loved to hide behind their dark lenses. In the later years of the 1960s, B&L Ray-Ban began producing Wayfarers in colors beyond the original black and tortoise shell styles, many of which are still produced today by the company albeit with different construction and with the Ray-Ban brand now owned by the Luxottica Group.

 

Sunglasses Styles By Decade: 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s


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