Sunglasses and Musicians
Sunglasses are widely popular with musicians today. At concerts, in public appearances and across magazine pages, many musicians seem inseparable from their signature shades. Bono, the front man Paul David Hewson of U2, has incorporated sunglasses into his personal style for the last 20 years. Large designer sunglasses have been popularized by recent musicians like Rhianna and Lady Gaga. Sunglasses have found a permanent home on the faces of musicians, but who started the trend and why?
The birth of popular music is something that predates the paparazzi, which is why it is difficult to definitively credit any musician with being the first to don rock-star shades. Sunglasses have become synonymous with the image of famous and not-famous musicians alike. Some musicians have suggested that they wear their sunglasses to help avoid irritation from bright stage lights or constant camera flashes. Others have speculated that sunglasses afford a certain level of protection and privacy to musicians. While most musicians and managers seem quick to point out a functional necessity behind a star's motivation to wear sunglasses in locations without sun, the clearest explanation was once given by the musician who built a reputation around his Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses: he thought they looked cool.
The earliest musician to develop a signature stage style that incorporated a pair of sunglasses was the 1960s rock and roll singer Roy Orbison. Today, the memory of Orbison's image is inseparable from the black framed dark glasses he constantly wore, but his decision to first walk out on stage in them was one of sheer coincidence and circumstance. Orbison explained in past interviews that his decision to wear sunglasses came to him during his early days as a musician. Apparently, while setting up for a gig he realized that he had not brought his regular clear glasses with him. Orbison's eye sight was so poor that he could not comfortably perform without his glasses. He had worn his prescription Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses to the gig, which is why he had not noticed he was missing his other glasses in the first place. Ultimately, he decided it was better for him to wear his dark prescription sunglasses than to risk going on stage blind as a bat. In the days that followed, he saw photographs from his performance and decided that the sunglasses gave him a look of cool that he intended to keep.
Orbison's decision to embrace the cool rock-and-roll look he had accidentally invented would later influence others like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and the Beatles. Throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s, the momentum of association between the Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses and musicians steadily grew. In 1980, the culmination came when the musician cool of early rock-and-rollers was immortalized in the classic film "The Blues Brothers." The movie's memorable phrase, "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses," immortalized musicians’ need for coolness regardless of any sunlight.
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