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Timeless Glasses: Iconic Eyewear Then & Now Aviator Wayfarer Clubmaster Cateye

Iconic Glasses Shapes: Aviator, Wayfarer, Clubmaster & Cat-Eye


  • Aviators were invented for US Air Force pilots in the 1930's who were in dire need of sunglasses that would eliminate glare, while providing the best possible vision through smoke and debris.
  • Developed by Ray-Ban and released for sale in 1937
  • Made to conform to pilot's helmets, the tear drop lenses mimic the shape of pilot goggles
  • Most Aviators feature a double bridge and adjustable nose pads
  • Large lenses prevent the maximum amount of light from entering the eye
  • In the 1970's colorful ladies' versions of the Aviator became popular, many styles were embellished


  • The 1950's saw many advances in the use of plastics, heralding the invention of Acetate. This mold-able material made it possible for Raymond Stegeman, a designer a Ray-Ban, to create the distinctive trapezoidal frame of the Wayfarer.
  • The Wayfarer shape is popular in both eyeglasses and sunglasses
  • Ray-Ban Wayfarers feature metal rivets on the end points
  • They were the standard rock star look for icons like Buddy Holly and Bob Dylan
  • A mid-century design classic that had its first big comeback in the 1980's
  • Distinctive "shark-fin" contour to the temples
  • Wayfarers were originally marketed to Men but were quickly embraced by Women as well


  • Clubmasters were the most common style worn during the 1950's and 1960's, marked by a bold plastic upper part of the frame and a thin metal lower part.
  • Originally manufactured by Shuron Ltd. in 1947
  • Also called Browline Glasses, Clubmasters mimic the way the eyebrows frame the face
  • Primarily popular in the U.S.A, Clubmasters accounted for half of all eyeglasses sales in the '50s
  • As the easiest route to the "geek chic" look, Clubmasters were rejected by hippies in the 1960's but embraced by hipsters in the '10s


  • Cat-Eye glasses were at the height of women's fashion in the 1950's, originally invented by heiress and socialite Altina Schinasi
  • Originally called Harlequin glasses, they evoke a retro, playful femininity
  • The rounded frames, upswept at the temples, are reminiscent of Egyptian winged eyeliner
  • Conceived to complement women's facial features and enhance your coloring
  • Use Cat-Eye frames to achieve the "sexy librarian" look

Iconic glasses Timeline

1944 - Photos of General Douglas MacArthur landing in the Philippines were featured in nearly every major publication, rocketing the sale of Aviators.

1950's - Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly embodied sophisticated glamor in Cat-Eye frames.

1952 - Colonel Sanders fried up crispy chicken when he founded the first KFC while wearing Clubmasters

1955 - Heartthrob and rebel James Dean made Clubmasters sexy

1950's-1960's JKF made the Wayfarer an American classic

1950's-1960's - Clubmasters were the signature style of high profile cultural figure Malcom X

1961 - Audrey Hepburn wore Cat-Eye inspired glasses in Breakfast at Tiffany's

1970's - Feminist Gloria Steinhem fought for women's lib in trademark blue aviators

1980 - Jake and Elwood Blues, played by Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi, were the last word in rebellious cool in their Wayfarers

1984 - Michael Jackson moonwalked into the history books winning 8 Grammys in a pair of Aviators

1986 - Navy recruitment rose exponentially, as did the sale of Aviators with mirrored lenses (by 40%), thanks to Top Gun

1990's - Pop star Lisa Loeb made cute, retro Cat-Eye glasses her trademark

2007 - Ray-Ban reintroduced the original Wayfarer, after noticing vintage versions were garnering high prices on Ebay.

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