Your eyes are an incredibly important part of your body, and as such need to be protected. As visual animals we absorb most information about our world through our eyes, nearly 90% in fact, and far more than all of our other senses combined. This is why it is so important to protect them, and why people have been doing so for so long.
The earliest examples of this are from prehistoric times when the Inuit people wore goggles carved from Walrus tusk that include narrow horizontal slits along the front. These crude early forms of sunglasses do not contain lenses, but the slits in the front limit the amount of light entering through to the eye and cut down the dangerous glare, especially in countries where the reflection off snow doubles the amount of dangerous light around.
Accounts from China in the 12th century state that people cut grey quartz into very thin strips to act as lenses and protect the eyes from glare. This was developed in England in the mid 18th century by James Ayscough, who replaced ordinary lenses in spectacles with coloured ones, not for any protection from the sun’s rays, but to attempt to correct visual disorders.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that sunglasses became universally popular, but even then fashion was the main aim rather than eye protection. It wasn’t until early in the 1930’s, when Ray Ban sunglasses were specifically designed for pilots to help with the ultraviolet rays and glare at high altitudes, that UV protection became the norm. Since then, with the huge proliferation of brands and models, combined with the increasing amount known about the effects of UV on the eyes, protection from ultraviolet rays has been at the forefront of sunglasses design and manufacture.
Today, sunglasses are produced in greater numbers than ever before, and technology means that UV protection is now something of a side issue, included as standard. Traditionally, brands like Ray Ban and Calvin Klein sunglasses have led the way with classic styles, but technological increases and the democratisation that the internet has brought about mean a whole new wave of young designers today are leading with way with innovative new styles.