The first sunglasses
Sunglasses have a simple purpose, to protect our eyes from the sun rays. The birth of this object, which has long since ceased to be just a protection, is thanks to the need of the people from the Arctic to prevent a serious problem affecting the Inuit people. The density of UV rays and the reflective capacity of the snow and the white colour made the sun rays extremely harmful to the eyes, causing what we might call snow blindness. As normally in humans, the need sharpens the creativity, and so the first "sunglasses" appeared.
These glasses were a little different from the sunglasses that we use today. They were made of materials of animal origin, such as ivory, walrus tusks, or reindeer rods and small strings made of whale skin or tendons from other animals.
They were rudimentary objects, which consisted of pieces of bone large enough to cover the eyes in their entirety and in which small cracks were made in order not to completely cover the vision of those who used them.
Although it is recognized that these were the first sunglasses, there are reports from ancient Rome describing the use of polished emerald blades by Emperor Nero, which were used as protection for his eyes while he watched the bloody fights between gladiators.
If you've ever seen a poker game, you've certainly noticed that some players wear sunglasses. These players usually do this as a way of keeping their facial expressions as covert as possible, so that their opponents don't understand what they are thinking or what their emotion is at any given moment.
As far back as the 12th century Chinese judges used this technique to conceal any reaction they had when questioning witnesses or defendants. These glasses were flat, and had lenses made of smoked quartz. Their purpose was purely intimidatory, they had no protective or corrective eye effect.
The initial evolution
Until 1730, the glasses were attached to the wearer's face by a band wrapping the head or metal hooks attached to the nose. After that year, thanks to Edward Scarlett, the rods that could be attached to the wearer's ears began to be used, which made the glasses more comfortable and the attachment more effective.
Years later, around 1752, ophthalmologist James Ayscough introduced the hinged rods and started using coloured lenses. At the time it was believed that these lenses helped to correct certain vision problems. These were the pioneers of sunglasses as we know them today.
Also during the 18th century, the first glasses with UV lenses began to appear. The royalty of the Italian city of Venice needed to protect their eyes from the reflections of water from the city's canals, and the city's ophthalmologists produced the first sunglasses in the shape we know today and a material that filtered out UV rays. Interestingly, UV radiation was only discovered in 1970.
The military requirements
In 1929, the American company Foster Grant was experiencing some difficulties due to a curious phenomenon. The company focused its activity on the production of plastic objects such as combs. American actresses in Hollywood began to use hairstyles with shorter hair, this caused many women to adopt this style and sales of combs fell dramatically. It was then that the company's founder, Sam Foster, began using an innovative technique, injection molding. This technique allowed the industrialised production of mass sunglasses. Thus a cult object was born.
In the same year, thanks to the need for pilots in the American air force to reduce the distraction caused by the intense shades of blue and white while flying, General John A. Macready began working with the company Bausch & Lomb to develop glasses capable of suppressing the specific needs of pilots. Thanks to this need for protection, the first anti-glare lenses appeared in 1936 and years later sunglasses became an object used by the common mortal.
The year 1929 was important for the history of sunglasses. It was also around this time that Edwin Land created and patented a filter capable of polarizing light. This invention allowed him, years later, to found his own brand of sunglasses, which also grew thanks to the needs of the American military.
The fashion accessory
In the 1950s and 1960s, when glass lenses began to be replaced by polycarbonate lenses, sunglasses experienced their true peak. The fact that the lenses were not made of glass made them lighter and could be made in different colours. The shapes and colours of the glasses followed fashion trends, and so iconic models such as Cat's Eye or Teashade appeared. Today, there are thousands of models and each of us can use the glasses that best match our taste or style.
Our eyes need protection against solar radiation as much as our skin! After years of ultraviolet light damage, the risk of cataracts increases, irises turn yellow and cloudy, and eyelids can develop cancer. Protecting your eyes from the sun is an essential part of maintaining healthy vision.