8 Jun 2016

The Origins of Sports Sunglasses

AMO sunglasses is only 3 years old but we pride ourselves on the features and innovation that has been designed into our sports sunglasses.

At AMO we took the sports sunglasses best features that were on the market, improved them and put them into one product. The result is that athletes benefit and now AMO sunglasses are equal (we think better than any sports sunglasses) on the market.

It was not always like that. Sunglasses go back a long way.

The evolution of sunglasses

In pre-history, the Inuit peoples wore flattened walrus ivory "glasses," looking through narrow slits to block harmful reflected rays of the sun.

Inuit snow goggles function by reducing exposure to sunlight, not by reducing its intensityInuit snow goggles function by reducing exposure to sunlight, not by reducing its intensity

Sunglasses have roots set in ancient China and Rome. In ancient China, Chinese judges wore dark quartz over their eyes to mask their expressions.

And famous Roman emperor Nero wore gemstones over his eyes to prevent sun glare while watching outdoor sporting events.

In 1750, English optician, James Ayscough, began making double-hinged spectacles with tinted lenses. He invented blue and green-coloured spectacles to treat certain vision problems, and these are considered to be a precursor to modern-day sunglasses.

James Ayscough blue and green-coloured spectacles in 1750James Ayscough blue and green-coloured spectacles in 1750

In 1929, Sam Foster, founder of the American company, Foster Grant, invented sunglasses to shield the eyes from the bright summer sun. And he sold the first pair of Foster Grant sunglasses on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The first Forster Grant Sunglasses in 1929The first Forster Grant Sunglasses in 1929

People flocked to his stand, and by 1930, sunglasses were all the rage. During this time, actors and actresses glamorized the look of sunglasses, thus increasing the popularity of the necessary accessory.

In 1936, polarised sunglasses first became available in 1936, when Edwin H. Land began experimenting with making lenses with his patented Polaroid filter.

During World War II, sunglasses were not just fashionable; they also served as a highly functional tool during World War II. In the mid-1930s, the Army Air Corps commissioned the optical firm of Bausch & Lomb to develop an effective spectacle that would protect pilots from the dangers of high-altitude sun glare.

Sunglasses worn by pilots in world war IISunglasses worn by pilots in world war II

In the 1940s, the public was able to purchase the Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses which were similar to those worn by World War II flyers.

The history of Sport Sunglasses

Pure sport sunglasses we slow to evolve and were an off-shoot of the traditional sunglasses.

In the 1960's cyclists used "flying goggles" in cycling pelotons, with some cyclists were seen using sunglasses. Dutch Tour de France winner of 1968 Jan Janssen was one. His reason for wearing sunglasses was not to look cool or to keep the grit out of his eyes, but because he was short-sighted.

Dutch Tour de France winner of 1968 Jan JanssenDutch Tour de France winner of 1968 Jan Janssen

In 1970s and into the 1980s, tinted glasses were worn by professional Tour De France cyclist Laurent Fignon, or “The Professor” as he was nicknamed due to his glasses.

A big development happened in 1975 when professional road cyclist Greg Lemond used Oakley sunglasses for the Tour de France. At that that point sunglasses became a firm part of road cycling culture.

Greg Lemond sporting the Oakley EyeshadesGreg Lemond sporting the Oakley Eyeshades

Sport sunglasses popularity then increased with the introduction of new frame materials, special strong lenses, lens tints, interchangeable lenses, curved surfaces and wraparound styles. Oakley were the market leaders.Oakley were the market leaders.

In 2007 Oakley had a pricing dispute with Italian company Luxottica which resulted in sunglasses mega company, the Luxottica Group, which also owns 70% of all popular, name-branded sunglasses taking over Oakley. Today the owners Oakley are fashion facused and Oakley is no longer a pure sports sunglasses brand and the new owners of Oakley are fashion focussed and become a no longer sports focussed brand.

These days in 2016, most sports sunglasses are part of a basket of sport products of some of the largest sports brands in existence and pure specialist sports sunglasses brands are rare.other sports sunglasses  lack essential features required by athletes and are often a fashion accessory.

There are few independent dedicated sports brands like AMO Sunglasses.


I hope you have enjoyed this blog on the history of sunglasses. These are my views. If you have any comments on this blog then please let me know your views in the remarks below.

As a reward for reading this far, AMO sunglasses are offering you an additional 10% discount if you purchase a new pair of AMO sports sunglasses. Just enter discount code "BLOG1073" at the AMO Shop.


Tim Hallworth is a triathlete, adventure racer and ultra marathon runner and with his wife Fenny is co-founder of AMO sunglasses.

There are also similar blogs and artless about sports sunglasses and multi-sports on the AMO Webpage at

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The AMO range...

Thunderstorm series

Protection and clarity for cyclists, mountain bikers and triathletes

Firestorm (red) - pictured with mirror-finish medium-dark lens. Also available in Snowstorm (white), Twister (green)


Typhoon series

Lightweight and comfort for ultra runners, marathon runners, cyclists and triathletes

Nimbus (white) - pictured with optional NXT polarised dark lens. Also available in Cirrus (yellow), Gale (pink)


Transformer series

Strong and lightweight for multisports athletes including ultra runners, marathon runners, cyclists, mountain bikers and triathletes

Ironcatcher (black) - pictured with Revo blue lens. Also available in Prowler (white)


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