Determining the most iconic style of sunglasses ever made would be a tough task. There are so many great choices. However, classic aviators would absolutely be part of the equation. Aviators are almost synonymous with consumer sunglasses. Even suggesting that they be retired is ludicrous.
Why bring it up? Because a recent article on the Wall Street Journal website suggests that very thing. The contributor piece implies that aviators are now out of style. Replacing them are big, chunky, extra thick sunglasses akin to what actor Michael Caine used to wear in the late 1960s and early 70s.
There is little doubt that Cain looked stylish in his chosen eyewear. And for the record, there is nothing wrong or non-stylish about his sunglasses. People still wear similar styles today. But to suggest they are a replacement for aviators is really strange. For crying out loud, Joe Biden has been wearing aviators for decades! He doesn’t appear ready to give them up just yet.
Aviators a Cultural Icon
Casual researchers have a tendency to credit Bausch & Lomb with introducing consumer sunglasses by way of their legendary aviators. The story is repeated so often that it is accepted as gospel. It may not be true. Indeed, Bausch & Lomb aviators may have been a latecomer to the designer sunglasses party.
Nonetheless, their aviators were among the hottest sunglasses on the market during the postwar era. That’s when sunglasses were transformed from a product for the elite to one the person on the street could own. Aviators became one of the early favorites in the 50s. Their popularity continued through the 50s and well into the 1960s.
Aviators began to fade slightly around 1965-66 but made a resurgence with the disco era of the 1970s. They remained strong through the 80s and into the early 90s. They are still among the best sellers today.
Unusual Longevity for Fashion
Aviator sunglasses enjoy an unusual longevity in the fashion world. Proof of their ability to withstand challenges is seen everywhere you look. Off-brand manufacturers like Olympic Eyewear, a men’s wholesale sunglasses distributor out of Utah, constantly maintain a steady supply of them. So do the more expensive brands from Luxottica. The question is, why?
It could be the fact that aviators go with just about any outfit. By contrast, The WSJ piece explains that you can only pull off the Michael Caine look if you pair oversized, thick sunglasses with the right clothes. Your outfit has to be understated and simple. Otherwise, you might end up looking more like Elton John than Michael Caine.
On the other hand, actor Mike Myers pulled off a pretty bold look with his Austin Powers character. Powers’ sunglasses were every bit as thick and bulky as anything Michael Caine would have worn. But he also wore the brash and colorful outfits so iconic of the 1960s.
Perhaps the difference is Hollywood versus reality. Only the most adventurous among us would attempt to dress like Austin Powers in real life. We would be more apt to dress like a laid-back Michael Caine. Either way, the point is that Cain’s sunglasses only work with a certain look. You can wear aviators with anything.
Here to Stay
An honest assessment of fashion eyewear seems to suggest that aviators are here to stay. Other styles come and go in regularly predictable cycles. On the other hand, aviators are always in fashion. They are always on the shelves because customers are always ready to buy them. They have no intention of being retired, regardless of what anyone thinks about other styles. You can take that to the bank.