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16 Interesting Facts About Sunglasses You Never Knew (2022 Updates)

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sunglases on sand

Sunglasses are an essential item for outdoor enthusiasts, fashion lovers, and anyone looking to protect themselves from harsh sunny days and bright conditions. Yet, some still don’t know about the history, science, or background of sunglasses. There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to our favorite optical accessories, especially when you look closely. That’s why we put together our top 16 most interesting facts about them and why you’ll want to get a pair yourself! We’ve categorized them to make it a bit more simplified as well.

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Top 16 Facts About Sunglasses

History of Sunglasses

1. They Originate From the Inuit Tribes of North America

To cope with “snow blindness,” the Nunavut Eskimos that lived in the harsh Arctic climates developed a set of glasses made out of the bones of nearby animals. These animals included walruses for their tusks and caribou for their antlers.

The design is quite distinct and emphasizes the thin lines across the eyepiece area to decrease the light reflections of bright snow. It wasn’t just for reducing the sunny rays, either. They also were effective for keeping the eyes from frosting over from the frigid temperatures.

Snow goggles, Alaska Eskimo

Image Credit: Snow goggles, Alaska Eskimo, Daderot, Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0 Universal


2. Shades Are Used to Cover Our Emotions

One of the strangest applications of sunglasses is its ability to hide our eyes’ natural dilation when provoked by a feeling of dismay or joy. Back in the old Chinese dynasties, these were utilized for courts to decide a case without their expression being visible. Since the eyes project so much emotion, this was a non-negotiable among jurors in ancient China, and they were actually made of smoky quartz, an abundant mineral with some translucence so that they could see through them.


3. Modern Sunglasses Were Created in the Late 1920s

With the booming of production and inventions in the Jazz Age, Sam Foster invented the designer commodity we know today as sunglasses, dating back to 1929. It wasn’t long after his accomplishment that sparked the famous company, Bausch and Lomb, and the idea to market their own specs to the military for aviation units.

This was a great addition to fashion as well, and many people caught on after seeing them in public spaces by getting their own pairs. Polarization was implemented just a few years later to deal with glares from the sky.

vintage sunglasses

Image Credit: asim alnamat, Pexels


Essential Figures

4. The Biggest Manufacturer of Sunglasses is the City of Xiamen

China is known for its high level of industrial production, and optical goods are no exception. In the central port of Xiamen, over 120 million sunglasses are shipped off the harbor to the Pacific Ocean, where they eventually meet store shelves after being imported across the world. This Asian country is unstoppable when it comes to modern production, and our expensive pair of designer shades were possibly made here for cheap and sold at a premium!


5. Americans Buy the Majority of Sunglasses

In the US alone, the country spent at least $4 billion on its shades in 2021 and continues to dominate the globe as the nation with the highest spending on this accessory. Nearly 80% of people say they wear sunglasses during the summer.

woman holding her sunglasses

Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay


More Than Just a Pair of Shades

6. Ray-Ban Created Glasses That Capture Your World

Have you ever thought of putting cameras inside your sunglasses? If you did, Ray-Ban Stories are a pair of specs that can get footage of your everyday life, which include touch controls, audio recording capabilities, and a charger to keep things rolling. It won’t be cheap, though, because they come in at a hefty $329 for a single pair. The public has somewhat mixed feelings about this as well because it can record at any time, wherever someone is looking. Some say it could invade people’s privacy. What do you think?


7. Chopard Sold the Most Expensive Shades on the Planet

Known for its high level of craftsmanship and responsibly sourced materials, Chopard is the brand that manufactures designer jewelry and accessories for only the most lavish individuals. De Rigo Vision, another extravagant sunglass retailer, partnered together with Chopard to make a pair of glasses worth over $400,000. That’s because they’re made with 24-karat gold gathered from strict standards of sustainability, and of course, they look stylish. You can bet that your wallet wouldn’t be happy after this purchase!


8. Shiels Produced Lenses Made with Emerald

There’s a legend in ancient Rome that a ruler by the name of Nero would wear emerald spectacles while watching gladiator matches as a way to entertain himself. During this time, precious gems were considered to be of utmost value and were possessed only by the elites. However, a current accessories boutique called Shiels Jewelers of Australia has made their own pair with translucent emerald lenses that many think are inspired by the emperor, Nero. They go for an astounding $200,000, though, so they aren’t for everyone’s budget.


9. They’re Great for a Game of Poker

Similar to their use in ancient China, shades are an important part of hiding affection. Card-playing enthusiasts who have money on the line will choose to wear a pair of tinted glasses to ensure the opponent doesn’t notice their emotional response when drawing cards.

This is advantageous in an environment where players might change their decision if the other player reacts to their luck or misfortune by looking at their pupil size. They can also double as normal sunglasses when they leave as well!

man wearing sunglasses

Image Credit: Colton Sturgeon, Unsplash


10. Elton John’s Iconic Eyewear Was Inspired by Another Rockstar

Most of us can recognize Rocket Man’s signature style of glasses by looking at their flamboyant colors and design, but can any of us describe where he got the idea? Well, we can, and it was just at the age of 13 when the singer got his unique taste from a famous musical artist by the name of Buddy Holly. Elton says that the shades weren’t for the sunlight or vision problems but just to reminisce on one of his childhood idols.


11. Security Guards Wear Them to Deter Assailants

If you’ve ever seen a celebrity being stormed by fans or looked at the VIP entrance to a party or concert, you’ve probably also seen the intimidating security personnel who monitor the area. A common thing we might notice is that these guys usually wear a pair of extremely dark shades to cover their eyes. For them, it’s a way to prevent others from being able to see their line of sight. Not all guards wear them, but it’s an industry standard for some clients.

bodyguard wearing sunglasses

Image Credit: Ben_Kerckx, Pixabay


More to Know

12. Polarized Lenses Help to Reduce Glare

Polarization is a useful tool for both sunglasses and cameras. In both cases, it helps to bring down unwanted reflections in water, glass, or shiny surfaces. It also makes the sky less bright, so the conditions are more manageable.

This is created by a chemical process when engineering the glass, so the light isn’t reflected from the sides. Photographers use this to their advantage so they can increase the darkness of the sky during the middle of the day and preserve extreme highlights (bright areas of a photo).


13. National Sunglasses Day Is This Summer

June 27th marks this year’s National Sunglasses Day, commemorating our beloved shades across the world and on social media. Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms will be led by the accounts TheVisionCouncil, OpticalIndustry, and other big-name brands to celebrate the UV-blocking accessory.

While not everyone is in on it, you can tell your friends and family to spread the word. Let’s just cross our fingers and hope the weather is nice on this day so we can put them to good use!

man on a yacht wearing sunglasses

Image Credit: Peggy_Marco, Pixabay


14. You Should Swap the Lenses Every Couple of Years

According to recommendations by the company STNGR, owners of high-quality shades should remove their lenses and replace them with new ones to ensure the best clarity and performance. This is because they can be degraded from scratches, and the film that helps protect against UV rays will be worn.

Before you do this, you will likely need a few tools, like a small electronics screwdriver, and you can watch a few videos to guide you through the process. If you have a cheap pair, then it’s safe to completely upgrade them with a brand-new pair.


15. Sunglasses Are Built With a Variety of Materials

If you grab a pair of $10 lenses off your local Walmart or Target shelves, you’ll probably be buying the ones that have plastic frames that are actually made from polycarbonate. The high-end stuff is sometimes made of plastic, too, although many are made of metal or even wood.

There aren’t many limitations for the outside frame, but the lenses are often made out of glass that is built to reduce distortions and cut out harmful light. This is done by adding chemical treatments and layers of pigmentation. Luckily, almost all sunglasses will provide this benefit, so budgets can be easily maintained.

sunglasses on a table

Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay


16. There Are Numerous Songs About Sunglasses

 You may have heard of a few familiar hits on the radio that mention cool shades, but it goes far beyond that. There are at least 20 singles from pop culture, with sing-alongs like “Sunglasses at Night” recorded by Corey Hart, and “Cheap Sunglasses” by ZZ Top. There are dozens of artists who also can’t be without their shades. Elton John, John Lennon, and Ozzy Osbourne are just to name a few, and each of them has completely distinct styles.

Conclusion

Even though the first sets of glasses were crafted thousands of years ago, today’s shades are a popular status symbol for the wealthy. But that doesn’t mean they’re only for rich folks because most of us can easily grab ourselves a pair at a local supermarket for less than $20.

Luckily, we can enjoy our outdoor ventures without being blinded by harsh UV rays or impress our friends and family with the coolest shades. Sunglasses come in many shapes and styles, so it’s up to you what your next pair will be.


Featured Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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