There are people who become icons for their style. There are styles that become icons for their people. And then there are Ray Ban Wayfarers.
Tom Cruise was wearing them when he shimmied in his skivvies in “Risky Business.” Billy Joel donned them in concert. They were Michael Jackson’s shades of choice at the zenith of the “Thriller” era. And Don Henley made them symbols of all things hot, cool and unapproachable in “The Boys of Summer.”
Sunglasses weren’t always wardrobe essentials; they were once associated with weak eyes. If any one accessory can claim credit for turning a medical must into a fashion must-have, it’s the Ray Ban Wayfarer. Eclipsing decades of ephemeral fads, this emblematic style has now been rediscovered by a new generation.
Rise of an icon
First sold in the early 1950s, the Ray Ban Wayfarer was a dramatic departure from familiar eyewear. Suddenly, plastic was in, and metal was out. Wayfarers found favor throughout the 1950s and 60s, but never did the design see a greater resurgence than in the 1980s. Featured in pop-culture classics like “The Breakfast Club” and “Miami Vice,” Wayfarers became symbolic of what it meant to be cool, imperturbable, skating on the fringe of mainstream society.
If it’s true that imitation is the best form of flattery, Wayfarer Sunglasses enjoyed heightened appeal based on the sheer numbers of similar looks flying off the shelves. Their design spawned an influx of lookalike styles sported by luminaries such as Andy Warhol, Jack Nicholson and Roy Orbison.
Return of the inimitable
By the 1990s, new wrap-around sunglasses threatened to unseat Wayfarers from the eyewear throne. As it happened, it was the wrap-around that was marked for extinction; by the 2000s, Wayfarers were back.
“Antique” versions are the darlings of eBay, but the original design has also given way to many fashionable descendants. Unlike their predecessors, Wayfarers now come in more than one color and style, in keeping with the pace, tastes and preferences of a new age.
Ten years ago, it seemed that Wayfarer Sunglasses had passed their halcyon days. Today, nothing is further from the truth. Don Henley didn’t describe imitations in “The Boys of Summer.” Corey Hart didn’t wear fakes when he performed “Sunglasses at Night.” Neither song is new, but both are classics.
Ray Ban Wayfarers have always been star-makers. And like the icons they accessorize, their ageless style is anything but a has-been.