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When Were Sunglasses Invented?

When Were Sunglasses Invented?

One of the best accessories that you can have in your wardrobe is a great pair of sunglasses. Made for both form and function, shades can elevate any outfit by making it look more put together and adding that cool factor. Sunglasses have been around for years, but who was responsible for this stylish yet practical invention? Here, we’ll be diving into a little bit of history to find out how our modern pair of shades came to be.

When Were Sunglasses Invented? - Ancient Inuits Inveting Sunglasses

2000 years ago

Sunglasses are an age-old invention that dates back further than we might think, about 2000 years ago. Members of the Inuit tribe used walrus ivory eye coverings with slits in them to protect their eyes from snow blindness. Other materials that could be used for these early sunglasses included caribou antlers or driftwood and were called “nigaugek” or “igguag.”

12th century

Fast forward to the 12th century, which is when the Chinese invented sunglasses that more closely resemble what we use today. Using a crude slab of smoked quartz to make the lenses, these glasses were able to provide some relief from the sun’s bright rays.

18th century

Several centuries later, modern eyeglasses with wire frames to hold the lenses were invented in Italy. Variations with green-tinted lenses were created for sun protection. These sunglasses were often worn by gondoliers whose eyes needed protection from the glaring sun reflecting off the Venetian canals.  

Around the same time, British inventor James Ayscough also introduced green and blue-tinted lenses to improve the vision of his clients and protect them from glaring or bright lights.

When Were Sunglasses Invented? - 1930s Aviator Sunglasses

20th century

Modern-type sunglasses started becoming popular during the 20th century, especially when Hollywood stars began using them to protect their eyes from the bright studio lights. In 1929, sunglasses started being mass-produced. Aviator glasses were also designed for pilots in the 1930s. It was in the same decade that UV protection was invented for sunglasses. The famous Rayban anti-glare aviator sunglasses were also created during this time.

1960s and 70s

As the decades passed by, sunglasses only increased in popularity. It was still being used by actors and actresses to ease the discomfort caused by bright and glaring lights on set. Sunglasses also provided celebrities with some level of anonymity. Ad campaigns were created to market sunglasses as a celebrity fashion statement, which made them all the more desirable among consumers.


Today, sunglasses are both a way to showcase one’s personal style and a practical accessory. Technology has also continued to improve so that shades can better protect us from UV rays.

The Bottom Line

Sunglasses have been around for a long time. We have the Inuit tribes from thousands of years ago to thank for creating the earliest models of this accessory that have led the way to the shades we wear today. Whether it’s fancy wayfarer sunglasses, classic wire-rimmed frames, or the ultra-cool aviator style, there’s a pair of sunglasses for everybody.

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