What will sunglasses be like in 100 years time? Before we delve into the future we have to step back in time and see where we have come from. Sunglasses originated in 12th century China when a smoked quartz stone was used to shield the face from the suns UV rays. Smoked quartz wasn't a cheap commodity and as such these early sunglasses were only available to the rich and more affluent members of society. Through time as materials became cheaper and lenses more reliable the humble sunglasses availability filtered down to the masses with them moving on from a mere necessity to something more akin to a fashion accessory.
Skip forward a couple of centuries and we begin to see the pattern of the modern frame forming. The 1910's saw the introduction of the round frame eyeglasses with a thin metal frame and a high to mid curved bridge, they were tinted and mostly sold in and around seaside resorts. They were practical and stylish and you could argue the beginning of what was to become a fashion revolution.
The 1920's saw a mini boom in sunglasses production with people wearing them for outdoor activities such as tennis and golf, while for the most part the style was still round the plastic frame had started to enter the fold and so there was more colour to be seen with the tortoise shell making its debut.
By the 1930's sunglasses had started to have a more profound influence on fashion with Hollywood stars photographed wearing them on set, between takes and out on the town. The public had started to take notice and sunglasses began to represent an affluent lifestyle, coupled with the rise of Hollywood and the celebrity culture sunglasses began to take on a more fashionable form. While previously they were viewed as something you might need if out at the beach, they became something you would wear to look good.
With the 40' and 50's sunglasses really started to go off in their own direction with companies taking their designs to new and often outrageous places. Of the more recognized styles to be born during this time perhaps the cat eye are the ones that have been able to endure.
After the war sunglasses sales started to sky rocket with them being readily available in department and drug stores at a low price. When Ray-Ban introduced their cat eye sunglasses in the 1950's together with a nifty marketing campaign a legend was born (though we know that they would go on to design perhaps THE sunglasses of the 21st century).
Through the 60' and 70's sunglasses continued to grow in popularity and extravagance with each new year bringing about a new style at a cheaper price. High end fashion houses began to take back the reins for the rich and famous by developing their own concepts and with that increasing the need of the people to want to look like their beloved celebrities.
The dawn of the bug eye was upon us and famed celebrities such Cher were seen to be sporting this oversize frame but the style of the century was still to come. Although a hallmark of their collection from the 1950's and 60's, with smart product placement Ray-Ban aligned themselves with the most popular stars of the era and re-introduced the now iconic wayfarer frame. With its signature thick black frame and black lens this frame gave even the dorkiest of kids a chance of looking cool, and the 1980's its defining look.
The 90's was a mix of many different styles with the wired frame oval shades and coloured lenses a firm favorite. From a fashion perspective the less said about the 90's the better!
Futuristic design was at the heart of what the 2000's had to offer with wide all lens frames and a huge bounce in celebrities wanting to hide themselves from the ever growing paparazzi culture.
Nowadays we see a strong influence from the 1920's with the again popular round frame right through to the 70's with its oversize shapes while the 80's are kept close at hand given the wayfarers keen influence on general fashion. The keyhole bridge is a modern favorite together with a nice round frame while the square frame is starting to make a comeback.
Where do we go from here you may ask? Looking back its easy to see why sunglasses became so intertwined with fashion, they have through time become an extension of ones style, not just an accessory through need but one that now shapes the face just like a shirt or a jumper might shape the body.
With an increase in optical surgery it could be argued that eyeglasses and optical frames will be forever cast to the side in favour of a purely aesthetic frame designed for the sole purpose of accentuating ones sense of fashion and style.
Perhaps there will come a time in the not to distant future where the frame as a whole is discarded and we wear a special contact lens that not only shields our eyes from the suns harmful rays but also feeds us information about our surroundings and everyday lives through augmented reality and the internet.
What will sunglasses be like in 100 years? The signs are out there if we choose to see them but one thing is for certain, new styles will meld with old to create ever more daring shapes for a consumer that never rests.
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