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Few things in this world have been continuously cool for over five decades. The Ray-Ban Wayfarer is one of those rare gems. From its origins as a symbol of youthful rebellion to its unmatched resurgence in popularity, the Ray-Ban Wayfarer has become an instantly recognizable design. It has, in fact, become an integral player in the history of American fashion, history, and culture.

The original: Ray-Ban RB2140 Wayfarer Sunglasses.

The original: Ray-Ban RB2140 Wayfarer Sunglasses.

History of the Ray-Ban Wayfarer

Something special happens at the intersection of culture and fashion— a single item can both shape and define a generation. Like the leather jacket and Levi jeans defined the rebellious sentiment of post-war 1950s youth, so did the Ray-Ban Wayfarer. Design critic Stephen Bayley explained the Wayfarer's popularity with this generation by saying that its new shape and look "spoke a non-verbal language that hinted at an unstable dangerousness."

When Did Ray Ban Wayfarer Come Out?

Wayfarers were first designed in 1952 by American by Raymond Stegeman who worked for Ray-Ban’s parent company, Bausch and Lomb. But it wasn’t until 1956, though, that the alluring design went into production. While the shape of the Wayfarer did convey a rebellious nature, sometimes compared to the peaked fins of 1950s-era Cadillacs and analogous with Charles and Ray Eames’ modernist furniture designs, it was the reflective quality of the lens that gave the frame its dangerous edge. An inadvertent effect of the frame's UV protection, the mirror-like appearance of the lens hid the eyes of whoever wore them, creating a sense of mystery and danger. This ability to hide one's eyes, and possibly one's true nature, broke the paradigm of innocence and transparency valued by earlier generations.

Celebrities Wearing Ray-Ban Wayfarers

The most magnetic, mysterious, and rebellious celebrities made the Wayfarer popular through the 1950s and 1960s. Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Marilyn Monroe, and even President John Fitzgerald Kennedy helped define the Wayfarer image. It is no surprise that this kind of star power resulted in great commercial success for the Ray-Ban Wayfarer. While the Wayfarer was an extremely popular frame through the 1950s and 1960s, fashion, inevitably, changed with the times. The Wayfarer's popularity waned as culture shifted from the leather-bound rebellion of the 1950s and the social revolution of the 1960s.

It wasn't until 1983 when the intersection of pop culture and fashion once again led to an unparalleled explosion of popularity for the Ray-Ban Wayfarer. The Wayfarer slid back into style when Tom Cruise wore them in the famous underwear dance scene in the movie Risky Business. During the 1980s, the Wayfarer lost its identity as an accessory of social change and rebellion, becoming instead a symbol of 1980s wealth, "preppy" culture, and cool social nihilism. Musicians like Madonna, The Smiths, Johnny Marr, Debbie Harry (Blondie), and Elvis Costello were seen wearing Ray-Ban Wayfarers, and actor Jack Nicholson was (and still is) rarely seen without them. They were even mentioned in Don Henley’s 1984 hit song "The Boys of Summer," widely considered an anthem of 1980s angst. Again, popular culture and star power fueled the Wayfarer's popularity.

Are Ray Ban Wayfarers Still In Fashion?

The advent of the 1990s brought about new beliefs, music, and culture that raged against the excesses and plasticity of the 1980s and the Ray-Ban Wayfarer again experienced a dip in popularity. A timeless style, however, cannot be ignored for too long. While the 1990s and early 2000s were not the most successful years for the Wayfarer, the frames would again become a popular style across a wider audience than ever before.

As in the past, a shift in the cultural paradigm brought the Wayfarer back to the forefront of fashion. The rise of the hipster, wearing Wayfarers as an ironic and postmodern nod to throwback American fashions, and the current focus on the self, have spurred the recent popularity of the Ray-Ban Wayfarer.

Classic design with a "squared" off look: The Ray-Ban RB2151 Wayfarer Square Sunglasses.

Are Ray-Ban Wayfarers Unisex?

Though the Wayfarer has been called “masculine”, there’s nothing gender-specific about “cool” and “mysterious.” A glance through a list of famous personalities wearing a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers—or at the many anonymous work-a-day people all over the world—will make it clear: yes, the Wayfarer look is unisex. Anyone can command the moody flare that Wayfarers offer.

Which Ray-Ban Wayfarers Should I Get?

Wayfarers are now available in a nearly endless selection of colors, prints, and patterns so that everyone can use them as a tool of self-expression. Ray-Ban even offers slightly altered versions of the Original Wayfarer, like the Ray-Ban RB2132 New Wayfarer, which sports the iconic sculpted temples of the original and a new, softer eye shape. The RB2151 Wayfarer Square is also a spin-off of the classic design with a more defined square shape. Ray-Ban, of course, still makes RB2140 The Original Wayfarer. It is available in countless colors including basic black, tortoiseshell, blue gradient, red, white, pink, and even turquoise. You can express yourself with a swank pair of Wayfarers with more than mere color choices, though.. Be mysteriously dynamic with Ray-Ban Rare Prints including black and grey tile, light wood, London cityscape, transparent color mosaics, and a collage of stylized guitars. The range of new colors and patterns allows people to celebrate an iconic and timeless design while still expressing their own style and one of a kind personality. Self-expression is still, of course, an important part of today's culture. The current wave of the Wayfarer's popularity is another example of how fashion and culture intersect to influence and define one another.

Can Ray-Ban Wayfarers Be Prescription?

They sure can. First, do your prescription sunglasses research. Most are available with progressive or single vision lenses, and lenses with or without the Ray-Ban logo. Once you have your prescription in hand, enter it on our website and we’ll do the rest. Don’t have your prescription with you? Enter your eye doctor’s information and we’ll contact them. It couldn’t get much easier than that.

See our entire selection of Ray-Ban Wayfarer Eyewear (including eyeglass frames) online.

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