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The History of Wayfarer Sunglasses

Wayfarer sunglasses were designed in 1952 by Raymond Stegeman, who worked for Ray-Ban’s parent company, Bausch and Lomb. The style quickly grew in popularity throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, especially after James Dean wore a pair in 1955's Rebel Without a Cause. Counterculture icons like Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan also wore them regularly, as did stylish silver screen stars like Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe, which helped to boost their popularity significantly. In the 1970s, the trend began to fade, although the style remained stalwart in the rock ‘n roll scene. A popularity bump occurred again after 1980’s Blues Brothers featured the shades, so Ray-Ban decided to take advantage of movie advertising. The company signed a $50,000-per-year deal with Unique Product Placement that guaranteed Wayfarer sunglasses would be featured in a number of movies and TV shows each year. It worked, and Wayfarers became the sunglasses of the 1980s. In fact, after Tom Cruise famously wore a pair in Risky Business (1983), sales skyrocketed in the following months. Many musicians, including Debbie Harry, Johnny Marr, and Michael Jackson, also embraced Wayfarers in the ’80s. In addition to the official Ray-Ban version, countless brands mimicked the general style of Wayfarers, making them even more ubiquitous. Wayfarer sales began to taper off in the 1990s, but the style didn’t fade away entirely. After purchasing the brand from Bausch and Lomb, Italian eyewear giant Luxottica redesigned Wayfarers in 2002 by shrinking and rounding off the frames; they also began using lighter injection-molded plastic instead of the classic acetate previously used to make them. In 2007, the company reintroduced the original silhouette in addition to the newer style. Today, Wayfarers remain a classic choice of sunglasses that are still worn regularly by their many fans.

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