A Brief History of Sunglasses


Cool, hot, chic, smart. These are some of the words associated with sunglasses. Apart from the obvious fashion statement one makes when wearing a pair of shades, its more practical application stems from the fact that the wearer seeks to protect his eyes.

Have you been on snow? Being on one without a good pair of sunshades is tantamount to performing a hara-kiri on your eyes. It can result in snow blindness, a painful, albeit temporary, loss of vision due to the effects of the ultraviolet rays reflecting off the snow.

For thousands of years, the Inuit people wore snow goggles made out of walrus ivory, bones or caribou antler to prevent snow blindness. Slits are cut into the material to minimize the amount of light to the wearer. These eye pieces are relatively flat and they are worn tightly against the face so that light will not enter from the top or the sides. Soot might also be applied on the inside to further reduced glare. Known as Iggaak, these relatively simple contraptions are nonetheless very effective in protecting the eyes of the Inuit people.

Inuit Snow Googles from Wood and Caribou Antler 1000 ~ 1890 CE (photo contributed by Jared Zimmerman to Wikimedia creative commons)

Needless to say, eyewear has progressed and wearing a pair of Inuit snow goggles might not be practical for today’s active athletes.

During the 12 th century in China, it was recorded that judges would wear smoky quartz sunglasses to hide their expressions when interrogating witnesses. Known as “ai dai” (靉靆), these did little to protect the eyes from harmful ultra-violet rays but did provide some protection from the glare. Later, In the antiques compendium “dongtianqinglu” (洞天清录),the author mentioned eyeglasses that were “similar to large coins, with colours of mica." Apparently, the elderly could read clearly when wearing these.

In 16th century Europe, sunglasses took on its own development. Notably, English optician, James Ayscough recommended prescription eyewear made of tinted blue or green glasses to correct vision impairments. No doubt, these became the forebears of sunglasses as we know today.

It was not until the 20th century that sunglasses really became popular. Popular culture from Hollywood made sunglasses fashionable. No longer just a practical apparatus to protect the eyes, it became a fashion accessory. Many iconic styles of sunglasses were developed as a result. In the 1950s, women would spot cat-eye frames and men, the wayfarer styles. Other styles, like the aviators and browlines, became popular. Today, some of these styles remain popular, with some styles like the wayfarer becoming popular with women as well.

As athletes become increasingly aware of the detrimental effects of ultraviolet rays on the eyes, many have taken to wearing a pair of sunglasses when they are engaged in their outdoor activities. Whether it is for beach volleyball, cycling or running, they find it essential to put on a pair of suitable sunshades. They find that sunglasses that stay in place even when engaged in vigorous activities and lightweight are most suitable for their sports. That is why many successful athletes pick Sunday Shades as their number 1 choice when it comes to sunglasses. Sunday Shades sunglasses are designed to be lightweight, comfortable and stay snug, even when engaged in vigorous sports activities. They are very affordable too. Sunday Shades come in many colours and are suitable for men and women. Check out our online catalogue today!