Ray-Ban is a brand of sunglasses and eyeglasses founded in 1937 by American company Bausch & Lomb and widely known for their Wayfarer and Aviator styles of sunglasses.
In 1999, Bausch & Lomb sold the brand to the Italian Luxottica Group for a reported $640 million.
Ray-Ban Aviators dates back to the 1930s, when new airplanes allowed people to fly higher and farther. Many US Army Air Service pilots were reporting that the glare from the sun was giving them headaches and altitude sickness. In 1929, when US Army Air Corps Lieutenant General John MacCready asked Bausch & Lomb, a Rochester, New York-based medical equipment manufacturer, to create aviation sunglasses that would reduce the headaches and nausea experienced by pilots, which are caused by the intense blue and white hues of the sky, a new kind of glasses were introduced. The prototype, created in 1936 and known as ‘Anti-Glare’, had plastic frames and green lenses that could cut out the glare without obscuring vision. The sunglasses were remodeled with a metal frame the following year and rebranded as the 'Ray-Ban Aviator'. On May 7, 1937, Bausch & Lomb took out the patent, and the Aviator was born.
In 1939, Ray-Ban launched a new version of the aviator called the Outdoorsman. It was designed for specific groups such as hunting, shooting and fishing enthusiasts, and featured a top bar called a "sweat bar" that was designed to catch sweat from falling into the eyes. They also featured temple end pieces to distinguish it from the standard aviator. A few years later, in the 1940s, Gradient lenses were introduced. These were mirrored lenses which featured a special coating on the upper part of the lens for enhanced protection, but an uncoated lower lens for a clear view of the plane’s instrument panel.
In 1952, Ray-Ban created another classic style, the Ray-Ban Wayfarer, this time with plastic frames. They soon became popular in Hollywood, and can be seen on James Deanin 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. The now-standard G-15 green and gray lenses were introduced a year after the Wayfarer, in 1953. The model would enjoy a massive comeback during the 1980s with widespread celebrity exposure.
The company also pioneered in wrap-around glasses: in 1965, the Olympian I and II were introduced; they became popular when Peter Fonda wore them in the 1969 film Easy Rider. In 1968, Ray-Ban released the Balorama, which was best known as Harry Callahan's sunglasses in the 1973 film Magnum Force. The brand remained popular during the 60s and 70s, and gained popularity during the 1980s thanks to a lucrative placement deal, with cameos in the movies The Blues Brothers (1980), Risky Business (1983) and Top Gun (1986).
In the 1990s, Ray-Ban became victim to a backlash against 1980s fashion, and rivals like Oakley gained popularity among younger customers, Ray-Ban started to struggle and, in 1999, owners Bausch & Lomb sold the brand to Italian eyewear company Luxottica for $640 million.