The wayfarer frame is one of the most popular frame styles out there. It’s been emulated by every brand and label. Wayfarer glasses are nothing if not iconic. Born in the 1950’s as sunglasses, they have flattered the many changing faces of fashion throughout the decades, and today they are among the most recognizable glasses on the market. They were originally intended for men as they are typically quite large and angular, however they have grown popular with women too.
History of Wayfarer Eyeglasses
It was first introduced wayfarers back in 1956, revolutionizing the world of sunglass fashion forever. The frame has been celebrated over the decades for its universal wearability and confident stylization. The plastic, trapezoidal frames gained immediate popularity and stayed in vogue for almost 20 years before sinking into fashion no-man’s-land and then reappearing again in the 21st century.
In the 1960s wayfarers grew in popularity from being worn by key figures such as John F Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn. Then in the ‘70s the popular frames all but disappeared, only to reemerge with a vengeance in the early ‘80s in a prominent appearance in “The Blues Brothers” in 1980. Though wayfarers enjoyed great success in that year, the style verged on discontinuation after only 18,000 units were sold worldwide in 1981.
However, throughout the early-mid ‘80s, they began to show up on many popular actors and in numerous films, reestablishing their popularity. Tom Cruise wore them in “Risky Business” (1983), they showed up in “The Breakfast Club” (1985) and then again in “Miami Vice” (1989); Jack Nicholson wore wayfarers throughout the 80's as did fashion maven Anna Wintour. Extravagance was traded for quality in the 1980s and 1990s as eyeglasses shifted from being colorful and theatrical to being lightweight and practical for everyday use. Wraparounds and wayfarers became the top glasses designs in the ‘80s. These styles fused futuristic elements with a simplistic design and were made famous by celebrities like Tom Cruise.
Rise In Popularity
First released this design in 1956 and the frame was well received, becoming an iconic creation of that time. And because it was one of the first sunglasses to move away from metal and onto moulded plastic, it was a design that would be as famous and recognisable as the likes of Eames chairs, Cadillac tail fins and other innovations of the decade.
According to the Ray-Ban designers, the Wayfarer was designed to offer a “masculine look” and they quickly became a top seller. But by the end of the 60s, this design faced the threat of extinction before a $50,000 brought it back and Tom Cruise was seen wearing the Ray-Ban Wayfarer in the 1983 movie, Risky Business. Since the 80s comeback of the wayfarer frame, these sunglasses have continued to play a major part in both men and women’s fashion.
The first Wayfarer glasses were completely different to anything that had been seen before in eyewear designs of the time. Unlike the reformed style we are familiar with today, original Wayfarers looked almost like horn-rimmed glasses, with a large upward curve of the frame at the outward edges. At that time, the design was revolutionary. Ray Ban Wayfarers were new and incredibly stylish, and this was reflected in the wearers of the glasses. They became standard fare for Hollywood stars of the age such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, who needed a functional yet good-looking pair of sunglasses.
Throughout the 60s, Wayfarer glasses became more and more fashionable, their popularity buoyed up by their association with fame, glitz and glamour. Perhaps due to their versatility, Wayfarers appealed to a very wide audience and so no typical demographic appeared. Everyone from the rich and famous to students, artists and business people were wearing the Wayfarer glasses.
Despite two slumps in popularity in the 70s (they may have died out altogether if it weren’t for a $50,000 product placement deal in the 80s which made the prominence of Wayfarers in films and TV impossible to ignore) and the 90s (when wraparound sunglasses threatened to take over the style completely), the Wayfarer style of glasses kept coming back.
Wayfarers have reemerged in the second decade of the 21st century as a sunglasses mainstay, pervading both pop culture and main street fashion. They’ve also lent inspiration to designers who use modern techniques to design similar shapes and styles using new materials & processes to craft sunglasses that have timeless appeal for all tastes. The style popular today is smaller and more angular than the original design. Now with the benefit of many different shapes and colors, and the easy availability of Wayfarer-style glasses from many different eyewear companies, there is a pair to suit everyone, no matter your budget, face shape or taste.
Modern sunglass makers have adapted the wayfarer and added major flare and twists to the design. Proof Eyewear, for example, crafts bamboo and mahogany frames with iridescent colored lenses in their Ontario Wood line for unique and truly interesting looks that, while definitely wayfarers, are total departures from the old materials and craftwork.
Meanwhile, Sunski, a Kickstarter-funded label that has boomed in popularity, accents the traditional wayfarer stylization with fun, vibrant colors and reflective lenses that can be worn by just about anyone.
From the more conservative, classic wayfarer-style glasses to brighter, flashier, and more modern versions, there’s a wayfarer for everyone. Some people say style itself is the only thing that never goes out of fashion, and wayfarers certainly have it to spare.
Are Wayfarer Glasses for You?
Wayfarers are a very versatile style of glasses, and they are available in many different variations so there is sure to be something that suits you. This style will particularly suit face shapes that have a larger jaw as it can balance out the face. If you have this type of face (a square face, round or triangular that tapers out to the bottom of the face) then a pair of Wayfarers in a dark color such as black or brown will provide width around the eyes and forehead area and create a more balanced impression. For those with a heart-shaped face or an inverse triangle shape (with a wide forehead) then it may be that a pair of Wayfarer glasses in a lighter color will suit you better. It is not necessary to emphasize the width around the eyes for people with this face shape so if the glasses are lighter, smaller, and more subtle then it is possible to wear the style without creating an imbalanced face appearance.
For an up-to-date look, invest in a pair of red or white glasses, or experiment with patterns for example a tribal pattern. One of the coolest and boldest ways to wear this style is oversized – it can look strange if you have a pair of glasses that are too small for your face. This isn’t an exact science though, the bigger the better! Wayfarers are an opportunity to make a statement with your eyewear and can be teamed with many different looks.