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The Interesting History of Sunglasses

Sunglasses are something that everyone owns today, and often we don't consider how far these simple devices have come over the past few centuries. In recent decades, Ray-Ban has certainly taken over the market with their classic styles, and sunglasses like wayfarer sunglasses and aviator sunglasses have remained eternally popular. However, these trendy styles were created in the twentieth century, many hundreds of years after the first sunglasses were invented and used.


Primitive Examples of Sunglasses

The modern sunglasses we wear today are quite different from the primitive eyewear worn by Inuit people centuries ago. At one time, ancient people living in North America used glasses made of flattened walrus ivory. Primitive sunglasses were all but necessary for people living in areas with a lot of snow, since it could become almost impossible to see during a bright summer day.

References to sunglasses have also been seen in literature from ancient civilizations in China and Rome. Rumor has it that infamous Roman emperor Nero used to watch his gladiators fight through a pair of early sunglasses made of gemstones. However, such glasses weren't available to the public and were likely just a toy for the rich.

The interesting and early sunglasses that the Chinese used a thousand years ago were made of quartz, and while they didn't offer any real protection against the sun's harmful rays (like the UV-blocking sunglasses of today), they did take the glare out of particularly bright days. It would be several centuries before any true protection against the sun would be granted through sunglasses.

The Modern Development of Sunglasses

The modern incarnation of sunglasses saw their earliest development in the 1700s, when tinted glasses were developed as a way to help people with diseases. Scientists, inventors, and researchers believed that using tinted glasses could help people with sensitivities to light. Interestingly, glasses tinted in a dark blue color were used to protect the eyes when someone had syphilis, which caused severe light sensitivity.

At the start of the 1900s, sunglasses started getting popular as protection from the sun, as well as a fashion statement for famous people. The rise of Hollywood and the spread of images and moving pictures all but cemented the popularity of sunglasses with the public. Everyone wanted to wear celebrity sunglasses to look just like his or her favorite actors, particularly when those actors were featured in the magazines that grew to be so popular during Hollywood's Golden Era.

One interesting theory about the development of sunglasses in the modern era is that movie stars wore them so that passersby wouldn't recognize them. However, an alternative theory suggests that the lights on set were so bright that movie stars had perpetual bloodshot eyes and needed protection from the light when they weren't filming.

Modern Sunglasses Come to the Masses

It wasn't until the late 1920s when sunglasses were introduced to the world that the average person could afford. Mass-produced sunglasses were marketed by a man named Sam Foster. He began selling his sunglasses from a Woolworth's in New Jersey. It took just a decade before magazines were proclaiming that sunglasses were a must-have for anyone who wanted to look cool.

An interesting statistic suggests that out of the tens of millions of sunglasses sold in the United States by the late 1930s, only a fraction of the wearers actually donned their sunglasses because their eyes were sensitive to the light. Although the concept of polarized lenses seems like a very modern invention, they were actually available in the 1930s, when the inventor of the Polaroid filter started using them on sunglasses.

Today, sunglasses serve many purposes, and they have evolved over several centuries to become a vital item for eye protection, as well as an essential part of a fashionable wardrobe.

 By : Upneet Kaur

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