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 most importantly culture.
The original: Ray-Ban RB2140 Wayfarer Sunglasses.
Something special happens at the intersection of culture and fashion where a single item can both shape and define a generation. Like the leather jacket and Levi jeans defined the rebellious, anti-hero sentiments 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." While the shape of the Wayfarer, sometimes compared to the peaked fins of 1950s-era Cadillacs, did convey a rebellious nature, 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 feeling of mystery and danger. This ability to hide one's eyes, and thus one's true nature, broke the paradigm of innocence and transparency upheld by earlier generations.
It was the most mysterious and rebellious of celebrities who made the Wayfarer popular through the 1950s and 1960s. The list of celebrity Wayfarer fans runs a full spectrum and includes: Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Marilyn Monroe and even President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It is no surprise that this kind of star power resulted in great commercial success for the Ray-Ban Wayfarer. In fact, it was an extremely popular frame through the 1950s and 1960s. Fashion, inevitably, changes with the times, and the Wayfarer's popularity waned as culture shifted away from the anti-hero rebellion of the 1950s and the social revolution of the 1960s.
The "new" kid on the block: The Ray-Ban RB2132 New Wayfarer Sunglasses
It wasn't until 1983, over a decade after the Wayfarer was extremely popular, 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. It was during the 1980s when the Wayfarer lost its identity as an accessory to social change and rebellion and became 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 often seen wearing Ray-Ban Wayfarers, and actor Jack Nicholson was rarely seen without them. They were even mentioned in the 1984 Don Henley song "The Boys of Summer," which is widely considered an anthem of the 1980s. Again, popular culture and star power fueled the Wayfarer's success.
The 1990s brought in new beliefs, music, and culture that raged against the excesses of the 1980s and the Ray-Ban Wayfarer again saw a dip in its popularity. A timeless style, however, cannot be held down for too long. While the 1990s and early 2000s were not the best years for the Wayfarer, it would again become a popular style across a wider base than ever before.
It was, as in the past, a shift in the cultural paradigm that brought the Wayfarer back to the forefront of fashion. The rise of the hipster, who wears them as an ironic nod to throwback American fashions, the postmodern interest in reviving retro styles, and the current focus on the self have all spurred the recent popularity of the Ray-Ban Wayfarer.
Classic design with a "squared" off look: The Ray-Ban RB2151 Wayfarer Square Sunglasses.
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 evens 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, tortoise shell, blue gradient, red, white, pink, and even turquoise. The available frames do not stop at just color. They can found in 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, of course, a major part of today's culture. This wave of the Wayfarer's popularity is another example of how fashion and culture come together to influence and define one another.
The Original Wayfarer (RB2140) is available in several colors, patterns, and Ray-Ban Rare Prints on FramesDirect.com. FramesDirect is also proud to offer the New Wayfarer (RB2132) and the Wayfarer Squared (RB2151) in many attractive colors and prints. They are all genuine Ray-Ban products made premium quality lenses. Many colors are also available with Ray-Ban's expertly polarized lenses.
See our entire selection of Ray-Ban Wayfarer Eyewear (including eyeglass frames) online.