The First Sunglasses

How It All Began


While we wouldn’t be caught dead without our shades, they haven’t been around forever. The Inuit people were the first we know of that protected their eyes, they did so with flattened walrus ivory “glasses”, they looked through narrow slits in the ivory to block harmful reflected rays of sun. While the Roman emperor Nero was said to favor watching gladiator fights through emeralds. Sunglasses made from flat panes of smoky quartz, which offered no corrective powers, but did protect the eyes from glare, were used in China in the 12th century or earlier, as some ancient documents describe the use of such crystal lenses by judges in ancient Chinese courts to conceal their facial expressions while questioning witnesses.
 
Around 1752 James Ayscough began experimenting with tinted lenses in spectacles in the mid-18th century. Although these were to protect but to correct for specific vision impairments. Later in the 19th and 20th century yellow/amber and brown-tinted spectacles were also a commonly prescribed item for people with syphillis due to sensitivity to light.
 
Finally in the early 1920s movie stars started to wear what we now call sunglasses. It is commonly believed that this was to avoid recognition by fans, but an alternative reason sometimes given is that they often had red eyes from the powerful arc lamps that were needed due to the extremely slow speed film stocks used. Inexpensive mass-produced sunglasses made from celluloid were first produced by Sam Foster in 1929. Foster found a ready market on the beaches of New Jersey, where he began selling sunglasses under the name Foster Grant on the Boardwalk. By 1938, Life magazine wrote of how sunglasses were a "new fad for wear on city streets ... a favorite affectation of thousands of women all over the U.S." It stated that 20 million sunglasses were sold in the United States in 1937, but estimated that only about 25% of American wearers needed them to protect their eyes
 
Today we know that they do serve the purpose of protecting our precious eyes from the harmful suns rays but they have become a favourite fashion accessory for everyone, regardless of age and gender. One thing we know is you can never have too many. 

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