Originally launched in 1937, Ray-Ban aviators were designed to protect pilots from glare at altitude. Now, over 80 years later, the aviators (along with numerous other popular Ray-Ban designs) are a major fashion staple, imitated by other brands all over the world.
But how did Ray-Ban grow from producers of a functional military tool to one of the most popular fashion brands in the world? It turns out, film stars played a huge part in the growth of this international brand.
The Ray-Ban’s affinity with Hollywood started in 1951, when Marlon Brando donned a pair of aviators in The Wild One. This was followed by Elvis sporting metallic aviators and Audrey Hepburn wearing Wayfarer frames in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, helping to launch the brand into the spotlight and cementing them as a Hollywood regular. The brand was seen as ‘cool’ all over the world, but particularly in America, and sales started to pick up considerably internationally.
The really big break came in 1986, however, when Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer wore aviators in Top Gun. An international success, the film coincided with a major boost in sales for Ray-Ban, and a fashion icon was born. From here on out, celebrities were seen wearing both standard and prescription sunglasses all the time – both inside and out – and they moved from a functional item to a must-have fashion accessory.
It’s not just Top Gun that has featured the brand heavily on the silver screen. Films like Miami Vice, The Terminator, Risky Business, Taxi Driver, The Blues Brothers and The Breakfast Club and scores of others all prominently featured Ray-Ban sunglasses on the faces of their main characters.
Modern-day films continue this pattern too, with frames featured in the likes of Men in Black, Reservoir Dogs, Wolf of Wall Street and many others, and they remain a prominent film-studio accessory today.
So, the next time you see someone sporting a pair of aviators, wayfarers or any other Ray-Ban frame, just remember the crucial part Hollywood played in what remains one of the world’s most popular sunglasses brands.