At the dawn of the golden age of movies, celebrities began wearing sunglasses. Movie stars originally wore sunglasses for protection from the lights that were used in those early filming days, which were so bright they would often cause temporary blindness and headaches. Since then, sunglasses have become synonymous with the movie industry. Manufacturers experienced huge boosts in sales on sunglasses that graced the faces of big screen stars, and soon the tradition of celebrities wearing sunglasses in movies was born.
In following years, many celebrities popularized sunglasses in their off time. The Ray Ban Wayfarer was tremendously popular with stars like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. And don't forget about John Kennedy who always had a pair of Wayfarers on his head.
The 1960s was the first time that manufacturers were able to capitalize on the demand created by having a star appear on screen wearing a particular product. In 1961, Audrey Hepburn set the sunglasses market ablaze with her role as Holly Golightly bedazzled in a pair of Manhattans by Oliver Goldsmith. Unfortunately, their close resemblance to the Ray Ban Wayfarer misdirected most of the consumer attention, but the lesson was learned.
In 1968, Steve McQueen wore a pair of Persol 0714 folding sunglasses in the “Thomas Crown Affair.” These sunglasses, with their unique folding tortoise shell finish and blue lenses are still one of the most highly sought after sunglasses by collectors today. McQueen’s anti-hero reputation and star power continued to popularize Persol sunglasses both on and off the screen for the remained of his career.
Ray Ban continued to see the market power of celebrities wearing sunglasses in movies, and decided to make another effort to recover their diminishing sales leading up to 1981. “Risky Business,” starring Tom Cruise, would revitalize Ray Ban and re-popularize the Wayfarer sunglasses for another generation. In 1986, Tom Cruise would again pair with Ray Ban to reignite the popularity of the original Aviator that had been designed for and issued to pilots since WWII.
Other sunglasses manufacturers like Gargoyle were also reaping benefits by debuting product lines in movies, like the appearance of the Gargoyle ANSI Classic worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator.” By the 1990s, manufacturers had embraced the power of placing their sunglasses on the faces of celebrities in blockbuster movies. Ray Ban again created a product sensation with their 2030 Predator sunglasses on Will Smith in “Men in Black.” Manufacturers also saw movies as a way to escape a small niche and enter the mainstream, such as when Oakley introduced their athletic style on Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible.” New fashions for the alternative cultural markets also proved reachable when Oliver Peoples’ 523 graced Brad Pitt in “Fight Club,” which is a long way from their original use to protect against the annoying bright lights.
You don't need to be a Movie Star to Look like One!