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Sunglasses 101: 5 Facts About Aviator Sunglasses

Rev up the jet engines and suavely put on a pair of classic aviator sunglasses as you get ready to learn about America’s most iconic shades. 

1. They Were Invented for Function Rather Than Style

original aviator sunglasses

The military first designed aviator sunglasses for function rather than style. Bausch & Lomb made the first pair in 1936. The thin and light “pilot’s sunglasses” replaced cumbersome flight goggles.

The first aviators had large, curved lenses to cover as many angles as possible. Made of G-15 tempered glass, the original lenses let in about 15% of incoming light.  

Pilots loved not only the function of the new shades but also the style, and the sunglasses quickly evolved into what we now know as classic aviators. In 1937, Bausch & Lomb released a civilian design marketed as Ray-Ban aviators.

Worn by many military legends, aviator sunglasses are now associated with heroes and general badassery. 

2. A Legendary General Set the Fashion Trend

original aviator sunglasses
General MacArthur propelled the heroic stigma of aviator sunglasses.

Military legend General Douglas MacArthur sparked the aviator sunglasses fashion trend when he landed on Leyte Island, Philippines. He was wearing aviators and smoking a corncob pipe. Newspapers published photos, and the rest is fashion history. We’re pretty sure that’s exactly what the five-star general was going for. Pretty sure.

3. Top Gun Was an Aviator Fashion Show

top gun sunglasses

Top Gun’s Maverick wore Ray-Ban 3025 sunglasses with a gold frame and green lenses. After the movie premiered in 1986, Ray Ban saw a 40% increase in sales. According to Like a Film Star, Top Gun was a Ray-Ban fashion show with seven different characters wearing seven different models. 

4. Classic Aviator Sunglasses Have a “Bullet Hole”

ray ban sunglasses
Ray-Ban RB3483 Aviator Sunglasses | Gunmetal Frame and Dark Green Lens | $83 at

Originally designed for stability, the aviator double bridge was called the “bullet hole”.  Considering its position between the eyes and purpose during combat, “bullet-hole” is not the most sensitive name for the feature. It’s a good thing aviator sunglasses aren’t about being sensitive. They’re about keeping it real. Real badass, that is.

5. The Surgeon General Would Not Approve

aviator shooter sunglasses
In 1998, Johnny Depp’s character Raoul Duke sparked a Ray-Ban Shooter comeback.

In 1938, Ray-Ban launched the Shooter model with more sophisticated lenses and a different bridge design. According to Lexotica, the makers of Ray-Ban, “the ‘cigarette-holder’ middle circle [was] designed to free the hands of the shooter.” We’re not exactly sure what that means or how that works, and we don’t blame Johnny Depp’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas character for using his own cigarette holder.

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