Sunglasses are a visual aid that helps to protect our eyes from the glare of the sun thanks to tinted lenses. However, this was not always their main purpose. For centuries, as early as the 12th century, Chinese judges used to wear them to conceal their expression when in court, while Roman Emperors used to wear them when watching gladiator fights.
At the time, sunglasses were not so essential to protect from harmful UV rays as they are today but they did protect against the glare. James Ayscough in 1752, began to experiment with different tinted lenses in spectacles, as he believed they could help correct specific vision impairments.
The popularity of sunglasses increased in the 20th century especially among Hollywood stars. By 1929, Sam Foster started selling sunglasses on the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey and in 1936, Edwin H Land created his patented Polaroid filters. These were used in anti-glare aviator-style sunglasses which were designed by Ray Ban.
In World War II, sunglasses played an essential role. They were used by aviators to help shield their view when looking at the plane’s instrument panel. The American military also played an important role in the development of the technology used for sunglasses.
Today, sunglasses are used right across the globe and offer UV protection as well as being a popular fashion accessory.