Sunglasses fashion of the
70's, 80's and 90's
A relationship compromised by misunderstandings. The concepts of “retro” and “vintage” have been the talk of town for the past few years. In many cases, these terms are inaccurately interpreted or intentionally used in a misleading way. The ordinary person and consumer has trouble differentiating between the two, so especially with regard to fashion and old sunglasses, drawing a borderline seems worthwhile.
Retro: basically means the “reflecting” on a past period.
Retro-sunglasses, therefore are new reproductions based on the design of former originals.
Vintage: in the classical sense indicates a “good (vintage) year."
So with vintage sunglasses we are dealing with old and original sunglasses, which by their quality, cultural relevance and individuality over time have earned the title “vintage”.
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In the sixties, special emphasis was given to functional features and practicality of glasses above all. Individual manufacturers like Neostyle, Persol Ratti or Ray-Ban produced partially through handicraft incredibly solid glasses and sunglasses, which entirely served to protect the eye. These glasses distinguished themselves by a solid manufacture and indescribable quality of the materials. Nevertheless, the massive manufacture and the use of mineral glass for lenses also brought a disadvantage since the glasses became quite heavy through the used materials, and this was found as very unpleasant while wearing.
With the beginning of the 70s, the image of the optics changed and for the first time, it was not only the functional features, which was given special emphasis to, but it was also the design. The slogan “the glasses for the dress” determined the change back then. Since then, strong colors were used and the form and design of the sunglasses were varied at will. Also the development of plastic lenses in spite of the original mineral-glazed lenses presented itself unexpected opportunities. Thanks to this innovation, it was possible to widen the diameter of the glasses because the glasses became much lighter through the use of plastic instead of glass. The best example of this development embodies the Futura series of Silhouette. These sunglasses of 1971-1973 were simply terrific and came out as a limited edition already at that time. Despite the incredible form, Silhouette always managed to combine design, quality, and functional features.
A further characteristic of the 70´s became the so-called gradient lenses. The lenses of these sunglasses not only gave the glasses a more elegant look, they also considered the sunbeams from various directions at the same time. Furthermore, the so-called “changeable” lenses amazed the customers. These lenses automatically adapted themselves to the luminous intensity and darkened themselves automatically according to the luminosity.
The probably most outstanding development in the optics of the 70s was the invention of the material “Optyl” of Wilhelm Anger. W. Anger developed a plastic called Optyl, which dominated the optics into the 90s. This plastic was light and solid at the same time, barely triggered allergic reactions, and never seemed to lose its gloss even after decades.
Many big brands like Dior, Dunhill, Playboy, Paloma Picasso or Carrera let their glasses and sunglasses manufacture in the Optyl works of Wilhelm Anger in Austria. Therefore, most of the high quality sunglasses wear the Optyl sign and “Made in Austria” on the inside.
In the Eighties, Optyl expanded its supremacy and opened further works in Austria, Germany, France, and Canada. Back then, also other noted brands realized that dealing with optics-related accessories is profitable and intensified developing their own collections. Bugatti, Cartier, Colani, Jaguar, Lacoste and Porsche made a great business of it. Porsche even revolutionized the market with its patent of exchangeable glasses. The ability of changing the sunglasses by one’s own made Porsche models 5623 and 5621 to bestsellers.
But also other brands attracted attention to themselves with further development. Thus, Colani used for example titanium as a material for its frames and Christian Dior manufactured frameless glasses. Design and quality of sunglasses reached its peak at that time.
Besides the historical development of design and material, there still were some brands, which remained true to their principles. Thus, Zeiss, Ray-Ban and Persol still in part manufacture glasses or sunglasses with mineral-glazed lenses even today, in order to emphasize their claim to quality. Because despite the heavier weight, the mineral glasses still have some advantages compared to the plastic lenses, e.g. the increased scratch-resistance.
Off the mainstream, further brands became established back then through their own philosophy, which should not be left out here. Both German brands, Alpina and Cazal, sold their sunglasses a million times more by aiming at a certain group of customers. Alpina developed sunglasses for any kind of sports, and obtained excellent results with the legendary M1 model. Cazal to the contrary gained worldwide reputation by extrovert design and daring colors in the 80s.
In the beginning of the 1990s, the design of the glasses gradually became more colorful and playful. Many details ornamented the frames and various new developments stimulated the market. An innovation of that time was the material “Titan-Flex.” This material owns a form memory and bends itself automatically back into the original shape even when deformed. Thus, the frame of the glasses is much more flexible and elastic.
But no matter what the base of the success stories of each brand has been, one thing all still have in common: The image of unmistakable quality and design. For this reason, various celebrities ornament themselves with precious originals, to underline their character in a special way.