Though the aviator is often called out as a close runner-up, there is no doubt that Ray-Ban Clubmaster sunglasses and Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses are the two most iconic Ray-Ban sunglasses models of all time. These distinctive looks have waged a long-running battle for which truly takes the cake as king of “classic”. Many seek to declare one over the other as their definitive statement piece while some eyewear aficionados ask why choose at all and keep one of each on hand at all times. If you’re stuck on which style is for you, take a closer look...
The Clubmaster — a browline style sunglass — is defined by a bolder, thicker upper frame positioned opposite a thin lower rim, most often made in a contrasting metal. The browline silhouette first hit the scene in the early 1950s. They were popular amongst historical figures like Malcolm X, and achieved a reputation as the go-to style for intellectuals and the fashion-forward. While it dominated eyewear sales in its first phase of popularity, Clubmaster style sunglasses fell from favor by the 1970s.
Thanks to Bruce Willis’ character in the 1985 hit television comedy Moonlighting, the browline look was eventually revisited. This pop culture boost reinvigorated widespread interest and it was then that Ray-Ban introduced their very own model: Ray-Ban’s Clubmaster glasses. Ray-Ban further revolutionized this famed eyeglass style by simply translating it to sunglasses. The Clubmaster sunglasses model was an immediate success and has become an indisputable standard. Since its first launch, Ray-Ban has created an elaborate collection of Clubmaster sunglasses with novel twists and subtle design shifts to suit a wide world of individual tastes.
Unlike the Clubmaster which was Ray-Ban’s perfection of an existing trend, the Wayfarer can trace its roots directly back to Ray-Ban’s very own design studios. Raymond Stegeman, a Bausch & Lomb designer, first created them in 1956. Stegeman took inspiration from other visual motifs of the era while he sought to craft an unprecedented modern sunglasses style using cutting-edge plastics technologies rather than traditional metal frames.
His original design had much more of a winged effect at the upper corners of the frames. Over time angles and lines slightly shifted in either direction, but from generation to generation, the Ray-Ban Wayfarer retained an unmistakable impact. Quickly adopted as the signature shades for those ready to make a splash, the Wayfarer denoted masculine, edgy qualities for early wearers. Icons like JFK, Bob Dylan, Tom Cruise, and Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi popularized the style across decades and social realms, but James Dean, the true pioneer of cool, was perhaps the most notable Wayfarer trailblazer. Eventually, Ray-Ban’s original Wayfarer became an easy option for all...men, women, children and the wildly adventurous as well as those that only hoped to appear so.
Celebrity endorsements aside, what’s made the Wayfarer so popular is its universally flattering form and especially durable build. Small evolutions to the design have kept the Wayfarer fresh and cutting-edge, while the running availability of traditional models lets devotees enjoy the originals as they once were.
As it comes down to selecting one over the other, consider your fashion sense. Do you hope to craft a sophisticated, deep-thinking, artsy aura? The Clubmaster might be just what you’re looking for. Are you a little more of a rebel? Sportier or tend to drastically switch up your style on a whim? Maybe it’s the Wayfarer that’s for you. For outdoor enthusiasts or avid drivers, keep in mind the options for polarized Ray-Ban Clubmasters or polarized Ray-Ban Wayfarers as well.
Whichever you choose, these two style icons are sure to work in your favor. They’ve become fan-favorites for the very reason that each magically melds to the wearer’s personality, but also keep in mind this one final thought: two pairs of sunnies are always better than one.