Ray-Ban is the legendary brand that everyone knows. They've brought you the iconic Aviator, the Wayfarer, and the Clubmaster - three designs that have stood the test of time and are part of American history. However every story of success has ups and downs, and Ray Ban is no exception.
Ray Ban was a brand created in 1937.The original sunglasses were designed specifically for the U.S. Army Air Corp. for pilots who were suffering from eye damage while flying at high altitudes. The top eye-wear leader was asked to help, and they came up with an anti-glare lens fitted inside lightweight gold-plated frames. The glasses took on the name "Aviators" after the pilots that wore them, and they literally took off in popularity.
Over World War II - Ray Bans were mostly available to the military, and it wasn't until around 1952 when Raymond Stegeman started experimenting with newly available materials to create Ray Ban's first plastic frame design: the Wayfarer. This was a breakthrough moment for the brand, as mass production met with mass appeal. Finding success with both genders and being affordable for most anyone, Wayfarers have now become synonymous with mid-century style.
With strong popularity through the 1960's it wasn't until the 70's that the brand experienced a lull. Trends and fashions had changed, and Ray Bans faced increased competition from international styles that were increasingly available in America. By 1980, Ray Ban was down to selling only 18,000 pairs of Wayfarers in a year. They were in dire straits and needed to do something drastic to recover.
The brand's revival would come from a deal signed in 1982 with Unique Product Placement. For $50,000/year Ray Bans would be placed in over 60 movies and TV shows. The next thing you know, Tom Cruise in Risky Business and the crew from The Breakfast Club are all wearing Wayfarers, and the brand had a foothold in the culture again. By 1986 sales were back up to 1.5 million pairs a year.
The bump didn't last forever, and by the 90's wayfarers were back out in favour of newer sleeker styles promoted by brands like Oakley. It wasn't until the mid-2000's when Ray Ban noticed a bump in vintage style (as well as seeing original Wayfarers and Clubmasters going for big numbers on online auctions). In 2007 the brand re-released the original wayfarer design in a broader colour palette.
Today, Ray Bans are considered classic, and Wayfarers are as popular as a pair of Levis (and can go with just as many styles).