Apr 20, 2013

The History of Wayfarer

Olympic Eyewear specializes in carrying name brand sunglasses at wholesale prices. An ever-popular brand is their Wayfarer sunglasses, seen and written about in books, magazines and tabloids for the last six decades. What is the history behind this nationwide sensation?

Designed in 1952 by Raymond Stegeman, this radical design was said to be a mixture of “a mid-century classic to rival Eames chairs and Cadillac tail fins,” as quoted by Stephen Bayley. Manufactured by the sunglasses company Ray-Ban since 1956, this revolutionary sunglasses design literally redefined the eyewear industry. Wayfarers were the ultimate in popularity from the 1950s through the 1960s. Fading from popularity in the 1970s, these classic frames were brought back in 1982 and have enjoyed renewed popularity since the mid-2000s.

Touted as one of the best selling sunglasses designs and one of the most popular, yet enduring fashion statements of the 20th century, Wayfarers have a fascinating history. In fact, their ingenuity and hard work is what put them back on the map in the 1980s. Ray-Ban successfully entered into a contract with Unique Product Placement, located in Burbank, California, to showcase Ray-Bans in several television shows and movies between 1982 and 1987. These placement efforts only recently ended in 2007. Iconic, cult-films that helped boost popularity and sales included Risky Business, Miami Vice, The Breakfast Club, and Moonlighting. Worn by popular movie stars such as Tom Cruise, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello, Madonna, Debbie Harry, Jack Nicholson, U2 and even fashion icon Anna Wintour, Wayfarers made a remarkable comeback. In fact, the pop music video “Sunglasses At Night” was filmed with all the artists wearing Wayfarers. Undoubtedly, the 1980s proved that Wayfarers was a brand name with staying power.

Recently, the cult-hit vampire romance Twilight included Wayfarers and popular artists such as Mary-Kate Olsen, Chloë Sevigny, Katy Perry and Bruno Mars have also been seen sporting this iconic brand. In 2007, Ray-Ban designers noticed the price of classic vintage Wayfarer models on eBay and as a result, responded to popular demand and re-introduced the original Wayfarer design. Ray-Bay was able to create a blockbuster marketing strategy: stage a comeback for the original design, use social media to connect with a younger audience and create a high-profile public relations campaign that relied primarily on Hollywood’s stylish trends and events. By 2008, Wayfarer sales had increased more than 40-percent and these sunglasses are currently available in an assortment of patterns and a variety of colors.

Always to be imitated, but never as good as the original, people have worn sunglasses over the years that simply mimic the classic Wayfarer design, including Audrey Hepburn, Bob Dylan, John F. Kennedy, Roy Orbison, Ryan Adams, Andy Warhol and even Don Johnson. Wayfarer has also inspired an entirely new generation of sunglasses designers, including Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, REM Eyewear, Hugo Boss and Oliver Peoples.

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