Vintage Foster Grant Sunglasses – The First Fashion Eyewear Company

One of the more pleasant surprises in my readings about eyewear was a little book called “More Than Meets The Eye”. It was a privately published history commemorating the 50th anniversary of Foster Grant in 1972. I’d guess it was meant for internal consumption within Foster Grant and limited use outside the company.

The book was sprightly and entertaining; not like most self-published corporate hagiographies.

I wanted to know all I could about Foster Grant. They were most probably the first and certainly the largest of drug store sunglasses manufacturers. They were also debatably the first company to get traction selling sunglasses as fashion accessories. They began as an ornamental comb company in the early 1920s and by the end of the decade had begun distributing sunglasses through their retail channels – beauty and drug stores.

The transfer of production capacity from combs to sunglasses happened all over the world at around that time. It’s another story in itself that I’ll discuss here sometime.

At any rate, Foster Grant was the world’s premiere fashion eyewear company from WWII through the end of the 1970s. They released a ton of cutting edge styles promoted by cutting edge advertising, which they sold in enormous quantities.

1968 Foster Grant Sunglasses Catalogue Cover

1968 Foster Grant Sunglasses Catalogue Cover

Robert Goulet, Elsa Martinelli, Elke Sommer, Julie Christie all appeared in advertisements for Foster Grant in 1968.

Robert Goulet, Elsa Martinelli, Elke Sommer, Julie Christie all appeared in advertisements for Foster Grant in 1968.

Nowadays nobody really makes cutting edge styles – certainly none that are so widely available to the public.

The company history covered in the book ended in 1972, just before things went sour for Foster Grant – and all the rest of the drug store sunglasses manufacturers.

Foster Grant lives on. Sort of. It’s now owned by Essilor. From the news report of the merger:

“This acquisition is in line with Essilor’s strategy of procuring the resources needed to provide a quality offering that covers different eyewear market segments around the world in order to meet a wide range of needs. It also strengthens the company’s business base and enhances its growth prospects,” said Hubert Sagnières, Essilor’s COO and CEO designate. “Demand for non-prescription reading glasses is growing. In addition, the market fits well with our prescription lens business and is supported by favorable demographic trends. FGX will benefit from our international distribution network while we will leverage FGX’s brands and expertise to deploy this new offering around the world.”

As far as I know Foster Grant no longer produces cutting edge styles.
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