How Aviator Glasses Went From Military Essential to Street-Style Classics

General MacArthur wearing aviator glasses during World War Two

Aviator glasses are a perfect example of an unintentional fashion trend that was created for its practicality and not its style. In the 1930s, US Air Force test pilots were flying with protective goggles that regularly failed at high altitudes which resulted in injuries to the test-pilots. After a fellow test-pilot was injured as a result of UV rays while flying, John Macready reached out to the eye care specialists Bausch & Lomb to create the solution to their problem. The aviator glasses were designed to offer a full optical range for the pilot with tinted lenses to protect their eyes from the harsh UV rays.

The military aviators were fittingly branded as ‘ray-bans’ and became standard issue in the US Air Force. They were designed to be worn under headgear with bayonet earpieces to keep them in place and large convex lenses. The AN8531 military glasses became standard issue in the US Army Air Corps and the U.S. Navy in the late 1930s, with green-tinted lenses. The utility aviator glasses were created with anti-glare lenses to prevent the pilot’s vision from becoming obscure. The first aviator glasses would hit the commercial market in 1937 and become widely recognisable after General MacArthur was photographed wearing a pair during WW2 after American troops landed in the Philippines. As a result, aviator glasses have become synonymous with the military and the war effort ever since.

Although they were popular in the 1950s for their military aesthetic, the aviator glasses experienced their first major commercial success in the 1970s after attracting a loyal celebrity following that included Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson. The aviator glasses changed from being a military symbol to a piece of iconography for the Kings of rock and roll. The 1970s was also when women began wearing aviator glasses for the first time, with the style being popularized by the women’s right activist Gloria Steinem who still wears the aviator glasses today.

Fast forward to 2020 and aviator glasses are once again experiencing a major fashion moments thanks to Gucci’s latest Creative Director, Alessandro Michele. Alessandro has taken inspiration from the 1970s for all of his recent fashion week collections which has led to retro-inspired glasses to make a comeback. The optical aviator glasses have been spotted on everyone from Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin, to Gigi Hadid and her sister Bella Hadid. Today, aviator glasses are still worn by test pilots in the military and regularly appear in Hollywood films. Every publication including British GQMen’s Health and Stylist have praised the return of the classic aviator glasses as a must-have for both men and women this season.

If you want to add a piece of fashion history to your wardrobe, then the aviator glasses are a great choice. Blikvision offers a one-stop-shop for modern aviator glasses in both metal and plastic, at a budget-friendly price point of under $50.

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