Aviators: Flying High
It’s hard to think of sunglasses without images of aviators coming to mind. They have a classic shape, with universal appeal, that never appears to go out of fashion
Timeless and classic — that’s the only way to describe a shape that has defined what ‘cool’ is for generations. Aviator sunglasses have been around for as long as you and I have had access to photographs of family, rock stars or actors. What’s impossible to describe is the seduction of this ‘teardrop’ shape and why it looks so good on almost everyone.
In terms of cool eyewear, the aviator is up there with the iconic round glasses. If John Lennon made the latter popular, Jim Morrison and the Beatles brought the former into focus. However, the credit of being the first ‘poster-boy’ for aviators goes to Douglas MacArthur in his role of a fighter pilot during World War II. Pictures of him splashed across newspapers at the time, aviators and iconic pipe in the forefront, made waves around the world. Almost overnight, aviators became the symbol of ‘tough’ men everywhere.
The original aviators were designed by Bausch & Lomb in 1936. The prototype was much heavier than the models seen today. The large reflective lenses were thrice the size of the eye sockets and came enclosed in sturdy metal frames. Bayonet earpieces and cable temples were added to give them the perfect fit, so they stayed put no matter what.
The highlight was the gentle curve of the lens, designed to reduce as much glare as possible. A few tweaks later, in 1937, they were branded as Ray-Ban sunglasses and introduced to the public. The rest, as they say, is history.
Considering how long they’ve been around, most people who have owned sunglasses can claim to have had a pair of aviators at some point. After their introduction into the market in America, the second wave of popularity came around in the seventies and eighties. After Tom Cruise wore them in the blockbuster ‘Top Gun’, nearly every brand has been trying to hawk its version to a demanding public. A number of them have also experimented with the classic shape, with varying degrees of success.
The style was adopted not only by men but women as well. Even luxury eyewear brands across the industry have embraced the shape, with twists that continue to keep the aviator at the top of their customers’ minds.
What this means is, if it happens to be your preferred shape of sunglasses, you will be spoilt for choice! From niche and independent labels to luxury brands, there is an aviator for everyone’s taste. For proof that the aviator looks never really ages, there have been a number of brands in recent times that have introduced retakes on the originals.
Salvatore Ferragamo SF226S
Elevated with contrasting finishes and ultra-refined details, this classic aviator is designed in a lightweight metal shape distinguished by a double bridge detail with a textured effect on the lower side. The thin temples play with enamel or Havana foils that are tonally coordinated with the frame-front rims,
as well as with lens-matching tips for an overall chromatic balance.
Silhouette Accent Shades 8719
The new model for men features a hip round aviator shape with a double bridge that spans the entire upper edge of the lenses. The cutouts are a recurring theme in this model as well, adding to the distinctly cool look. The gold and silver accents on the temples are signature.
Barton Perreira BP0113 - Marquee
Sweeping curves and audacious couture-craftsmanship reimagine the classic aviator in unexpected ways.
Handcrafted in lightweight titanium with hand
painted enamel detailing.
Zabriskie aviator style
with slightly squared lenses are part of the Blackfin Razor line, that takes the technical perfection of Blackfin frames to even thinner and lighter extremes. Zabriskie sunglasses are crafted from a thin (1mm) beta titanium sheet using sophisticated micro-mechanical processes.
Police SPL 966
Classic metal aviator model inspired by one of the most recent Police bestsellers. The style is characterised by the additional dark profile framing the lenses and the eagle symbol embellishing the temples and bridge.
For all of the new twists and expressions of the original, many still argue that you don’t own an aviator unless you have a pair of Ray-Ban. Their aviators come in several shapes, sizes and colours, with that signature inscription on the lenses. These are, today, still the most popular of all aviators.
It will be interesting to see how designers continue to adapt and rework the original pilot aviator shape. Irrespective of what they come up with though, you can be sure there will always be an aviator on the market to suit your tastes.
The classic aviator variants
In the eighties, there were a few models that were somewhat similar to the aviator, but with their own twist and design.
The Carrera sport, for example, had a more rounded edge and double metal top above the bridge.
The Jaguar, on the other hand, was more angular. This gave it a more masculine look.
The Dunhill frame was larger and deeper than the original aviator but provided a similar classic, charismatic look.