FROM PIONEERING MILITARY HARDWARE TO TIMELESS FASHION ICONICITY, AVIATORS HAVE LIVED QUITE A LIFE.
Originally designed in 1936 by Bausch and Lomb to protect airforce pilots from glare and freezing blasts, in World War Two aviators became standard US-military attire. And when iconic photos emerged of aviator-clad, corncob-pipe-puffing General Douglas MacArthur wading victoriously towards the reclaimed Filipino shoreline, the returning heroes of The Greatest Generation were primed to inspire a fashion sensation.
Although Bausch and Lomb's commercial Ray-Ban Aviators were initially marketed as sports gear (the Outdoorsman model featured a 'sweat bar'), innovations quickly changed their raison d'être. The dark G-15 lenses were superseded by tinted varieties - later a Hunter S. Thompson signature - and in 1958 AO Eyewear released square frames to challenge the classic teardrops. A pink model was even released, for ladies.
Military roots could soon be found only in the Kalichrome Shooter model - its cigarette holder ensured the wearer might shoot straight - and an unfortunate endorsement courtesy of the Unabomber. A procession of celebrities - headlined by Humphrey Bogart, Elvis, Audrey Hepburn and Marlon Brando - rubber-stamped aviators as fashion essentials.
But only just. After a regrettable association with 80s disco, it took a topless Tom Cruise patting a volleyball in Top Gun to boost sales by 40% and restore the aviator's global fame.
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