Did Ray-Ban Really Invent “Aviator Sunglasses”? Part Two of Our Investigation

For Part One of this investigative series click HERE.

I keep reading Ray Ban invented aviator sunglasses all over the internet – even from supposedly respectable sources. Did they? Let’s find out.

In Part One of our investigation we examined the bicyclist’s shield the basic design of aviator sunglasses descended from. First patent date: 1891. It was notable for its basic shape and hinged center. 20 years later (most likely after the original patents ran out) in 1911 the Auto-Glas was introduced:

AutoGlas 1911 promotional postcard Motoring Glasses, Motoring Sunglasses, Aviator Sunglasses

AutoGlas promotional postcard, circa 1911. Note how the futuristic shape of the sunglasses stands out surrounded by the Edwardian motorcar and fashion.

It had a wire frame and lenses made of glass rather than stone and standard wire temples. The bridge still hinged but overall it’s a familiar shape.

If you’re a collector, nowadays rimless versions of the Auto-Glas are harder to find than the all wire frame version, most likely because they broke more easily and were probably discarded rather than refitted with the unusually sized lens. Note the pair to the right is rimless:

Two pair of AutoGlas motoring sunglasses, circa 1911. Photo by Moss Lipow

Two pair of AutoGlas motoring sunglasses, circa 1911. Photo by Moss Lipow

It should be mentioned, real aviators during the WWI era tended to wear glasses with side shields or full goggles. Open cockpits made this extra protection necessary, but when closed cockpits were developed the sunglasses previously considered “motoring glasses” then became “aviator sunglasses”.

Hinged bridge motoring/aviator sunglasses remained a dominant style until WWII. As we see here, the shape has been recycled over and over as “aviator sunglasses”. Compare and contrast the originals…

Images of AutoGlas sunglasses from my book "Eyewear".   The one in the upper left hand corner was a smaller size for ladies.

Images of AutoGlas sunglasses from my book “Eyewear”. The one in the upper left hand corner was a smaller size for ladies.

…with more recent aviator sunglasses:

Ray Ban Wings Sunglasses from the 1980s. Note the resemblance to the AutoGlas of 1911.

Ray Ban Wings Sunglasses from the 1980s. Note the resemblance to the AutoGlas of 1911. Photo by Siegfried Schlögl.

Dior Men's Aviator Sunglasses, circa 2010

Dior Men’s Aviator Sunglasses, circa 2010

But what about fixed bridge aviator sunglasses? Did Ray Ban invent them? We’re not done investigating yet.

The history of aviator sunglasses continues at the links below:

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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Images of Ray Ban Wings shot by the estimable Siegfried Schlögl for his blog http://solarisvintage.wordpress.com/

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5 Responses

  1. hi moss i hope your eyewear research is going well! a friend of mine passed this on to me so i decided to say hello / where can i purchase your book in australia?
    regards
    pat@blink 138 opticians

  2. Charles Zuber says:

    Excellent detective work!

  3. Jim Magay says:

    Got a lovely pair in my collection

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