Sunglasses Styles By Decade

The golden age of sunglasses for both styling and optical quality innovation occurred during the middle to later years of the 20th century, from the early 1960s through the 1990s. During each decade, sunglasses styles evolved to represent the feelings of the times and the market was dominated by smaller and more nimble companies as well as major new market entrants during each decade. Legacy designers such as B&L Ray-Ban continued and even accelerated their innovations during these years, introducing many optical innovations including Kalichrome, Ambermatic, and G-15 lenses that carried on Bausch & Lomb's history of innovation since the Ray-Ban brand was first created for the line of aviator sunglasses B&L designed for the U.S. military. At the same time, new names entered the market that changed the game in their own unique ways such as Revo with its colorful mirrored lens sunglasses and Oakley with their extreme wrap shapes. New materials such as optyl plastic and manufacturing techniques enabled sunglass design to become larger and oversized, and with that newfound artistic license companies like Carrera as well as French design houses such as Dior, Chanel, Gucci, and YSL all introduced their own sunglasses lines.


The staff at the Vintage Sunglasses Shop has compiled a history of sunglasses design during the later years of the 20th century where we try to capture the significant developments and innovations in sunglasses during the years of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

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 referred 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.
1970s Sunglasses
There was plenty of innovation in the design and quality of sunglasses in the 1970s. Leaving the 1960s behind when outrageous styles of sunglasses often took precedence over good design and high quality optics, the 70's saw the introduction of Carrera and Revo sunglasses to join Bausch & Lomb (B&L) as another 2 quality makers of fine designer sunglasses. While Carreras were innovative in the design of the 5621 and 5623 frames which allowed for interchangeable lenses of different colors, Revo introduced the most significant advances in sunglasses' optical quality and UV protection since B&L had done so with their classic aviator sunglasses and G-15 lens.
1980s Sunglasses
The use of the new plastic Optyl continued to expand in the sunglasses industry in the 1980s, with companies like Carrera benefiting by offering larger than normal sunglasses with interchangeable lenses and in a variety of colors. The use of plastic lenses versus the traditional mineral glass lenses, begun in the 1970s, became the de facto norm in much of the industry in the 1980s with notable exceptions like Revo, Persol, and B&L Bausch & Lomb. Most major clothing designers of the time such as Dior introduced sunglasses collections during the 1980s as plastic lenses greatly expanded their ability to create elaborate and oversized sunglass designs.
1990s Sunglasses
Many sunglasses styles of the 1990s were continuations of lines begun in the 1980s with only the most subtle and nuanced variations incorporated. However, the 1990s also saw the rise of very light and flexible sunglasses frames which could take plenty of abuse and still bounce back into shape. Active sports enthusiasts liked how light they were, and companies such as Maui Jim were both an innovator of the style while also investing in high optical lens quality. Sports sunglasses in the 1990s also proliferated in "wrap" sunglasses design.

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