Originating in 1956, wayfarer eyewear is characterized by a trapezoidal frame shape and thicker rims. Wayfarer frames convey a sense of rebelliousness and independence. Round, oval, diamond, and oblong faces work best with wayfarers.
While Ray-Ban had been successfully making sunglasses since 1937, the wayfarer was a revolutionary departure from its typical metal styles and enjoyed a quick success that lasted from their first introduction until the end of the 1960s. This breakthrough frame shape took advantage of the new plastic molding technology to create the wayfarer's radical new shape, which according to design critic Stephen Bayley, “spoke a non-verbal language that hinted at an unstable dangerousness.” The rebellious nature of the wayfarer was reinforced and brought to life by actor James Dean, who was often seen wearing wayfarer sunglasses. The wayfarer, like James Dean himself, has become part of American legend and lore.
The wayfarer's popularity waned in the 1970s, but enjoyed a double comeback in the 1980s, thanks to Hollywood. Popular comedic duo The Blues Brothers, played by Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi, stylishly completed their black suit-and-tie uniform with a pair of wayfarer sunglasses. The wayfarer also made a splash in 1983 when a young Tom Cruise slid across the floor in his socks, underwear, and a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers in the film Risky Business. That cameo in Risky Business was the beginning of a 1980s Wayfarer phenomenon. Ray-Ban sold 360,000 pairs of wayfarers that year. Wayfarer frames continued to make ostentatious appearances throughout the 1980s, featured on television programs Miami Vice and Moonlighting, in the movie The Breakfast Club, and in Don Henley's 1980s anthem “The Boys of Summer.”