Persol Ratti Sunglasses Styles, Information, and History

In 1917, Giuseppe Ratti, photographer and owner of Berry Opticians, began a business in a small courtyard in Turin, Italy where he began to make technically advanced glasses designed to satisfy the demands of pilots and sports drivers who required comfort, protection, and optimal vision. From this origin, Protector glasses were born which were made using round smoked lenses with rubber edges that attached to the head by means of elastic bands. Soon they were adopted by the Italian Armed Forces and by pilots in Italian Military Aviation. Intuition, ingenuity, innovation and quality made Protector glasses the choice of many air forces around the world including the United States. During this period, they were worn by flying, driving and motorcycling aces - D'Annunzio, De Pinedo, Ferrarin, Chiron, Nazzaro, Fangio, Opessi, Bolognini and Ghersi to name but a few of their most famous users. Protector glasses received a special initiation from Major Gabriele d’Annunzio (for whom a model was made to measure) and Captain Natale Palli on their historical flight over Vienna in August 1918, as well as from Francesco De Pinedo on his transatlantic flight that lasted some 193 hours!

 

From the pen of a great designer, Eugenio Colmo, a.k.a. Golia, came to life the “Cinesino” in 1920, a character that distinguished the Berry shop in Via Roma and accompanied advertising campaigns for Ratti’s products for 50 years - in particular the Persol line of sunglasses created in that period. In the 1920s, the famous yellow-brown lens that is mounted on all Persol sunglasses was created using neutral crystal made from the purest silica. Its singular characteristic is owed to a special “en masse” manufacturing process that determines its coloring and guarantees extremely high protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Subsequent development of the Protector model, guided by an intuition and determination to create truly revolutionary sunglasses in terms of quality and ease of wearing, led to the creation of the Persol trademark (Persol from “per il sole” meaning “for the sun”, highlighting their function of protection against the sun’s rays). The extraordinary characteristics of this innovative product were its neat design, crystal lenses (the pride of Persol), the Silver Arrow (both a functional detail and unmistakable decorative element) and the Meflecto patent, a system to make the stems flexible and offer maximum comfort.

 

The late 1930s saw the introduction of the Meflecto system and its 1934 patent, the world’s first flexible stem that is still today a distinctive feature of the Persol brand. The stem’s flexibility derives from the introduction of nylon or metal cylinders intersected by a stainless steel core providing comfort and adaptability to any face. This period also marked the creation of Persol Victor Flex, an application of the Meflecto concept, which were equipped with a flexible bridge (the "3-notch bridge" still used today in model 649) that creates a comfortable curve and improves fit. The period also marked the introduction of the Silver Arrow as Persol’s distinctive symbol: a hinge decorated with an arrow on the stem and inspired by the swords of ancient warriors. This innovation, born of Ratti’s intuition, was immediately patented in several countries. Various versions of the arrow followed until development, technical, and design adjustments led to the “Supreme” arrow that still today distinguishes the Persol trademark. As both a functional detail and decorative element, the arrow soon brought Persol international recognition (and copying) of its very distinctive style. Persol Model 649, built for tram drivers in Turin who needed large glasses to protect their eyes against the air and dust, was created in 1957. The novelty of its design made it a very successful pair of glasses, copied over the years by many competitors, and in 1961 Marcello Mastroianni wore them in the film “Divorce Italian Style”. Thanks to its popularity, in a 1994 French book entitled “Qualità: scènes d'objets à l'italienne" it was included among the objects most representative of the Italian creative genius of yesterday and today.

 

In the 1960s Persol became a source of real pride for Italian industry, and production was extended to protective goggles for welding and with specific filters for various uses. It was a highly researched and specialized line, holding over 35 international patents, that took the Persol brand name to the top of the world’s eyewear industry. During this time, Persol sunglasses were more and more often being worn by top personalities of the period including pilots, sportsmen, and film and television stars such as Greta Garbo and Steve McQueen who chose Persol both on the set and in everyday life. The 1980s extended the considerable attention that Persol had always paid to technological innovation and care for its products. Indeed, it took part in several expeditions to test its lenses at high altitudes and in the desert to verify their performance in extreme conditions as well as to experiment with the use of innovative materials. In the 1980s and 1990s, Persol tested their sunglasses in the most extreme conditions with an expedition to the Svalbard Islands in Northern Norway, the sponsoring of and participation in several editions of the gruelling Paris-Dakar race, and the outfitting of an entire team for the Pharaohs Rally in 1991. Enrico Rosso wore Persol sunglasses in 1989 as he climbed up to the Himalayan summit of Kun (23,251 fee) with ophthalmologist Paolo Gugliermina who looked after ocular testing. Upon his return, he reported that none of the men on the expedition had suffered eye problems thanks to protection from Persol lenses specifically designed for the mission. This real world testing, in association with personalities from the world of mountaineering such as Reinhold Messner, led to the creation of “Persol Sport” eyewear in 1990, a line designed to protect the eyes of those involved in sporting activities. Also in the 1990s, Persol’s female image was entrusted to Italian actress Ornella Muti, for whom Persol purposely created a pair of incredibly popular glasses (the elegant 830 model), and then in 1993-94 teamed with supermodel Carol Alt to create her own personalized style (the Carol 853 model).

 

The first Persol boutique opened in 1991 on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, and by 1994 Persol was present in 40 countries worldwide and had 3.500 retail points of sale in Italy and over 12.000 in the rest of the world. Vintage Moschino Sunglasses and Eyewear were famous for their eccentric designs and unique styles. In the 1980s and 1990s, the collaboration between Persol and Moschino created some amazing sunglasses which became famous around the world for their eccentric designs and unique styles. In April 1995, the Luxottica Group acquired the Persol trademark and expanded the brand around the world. While clearly different from the vintage Persol Ratti styles, Luxottica continues to make Persol glasses in the historical factory in Lauriano (Turin).

 

You can see our entire selection of vintage Persol Ratti sunglasses with complete descriptions or with thumbnail pictures all on a single page in our photo gallery.


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