Here comes the sun and our eyes are bare. No need to go back in time to find the origin of sunglasses. In the great white expanses of the North Pole, the Inuit have long carved and decorated bones, making small slits in them to protect the eyes from the damage and blindness that the glaring sun can cause. It is said that Roman emperors watched circus games through precious stones, emeralds in the case of Nero.
As early as the 17th century, the doges of Venice had the first “real” sunglasses developed, in metal, fitted with side protections in silk, with Murano glass lenses. Better still, a rare mineral, Neodyne, was added to the glass, which filtered out ultraviolet light, giving it a characteristic green color.
Closer to home, we will see the development of sunglasses accompany that of aviation, early classics are made by Ray Ban, a brand that becomes a classic. The paid holidays of the interwar period, time in the sun and the fashion for cruises will make the accessory indispensable. Very quickly, it became a symbol of a lifestyle reserved for the happy few: a society that was becoming less sedentary, discovering the world, giving itself the means of explore its curiosity.
Soon, in its golden age, Hollywood will in turn dictate a style that the whole planet will want to imitate, and sunglasses are transformed into an accessory. Soon the big stars will use them to supposedly go incognito among ordinary mortals, but in reality they only drew more attention to themselves. Closer to home, Karl Lagerfeld, raised in strict Protestantism, never took his sunglasses off for a couple of reasons, one being to hide his emotions, the other to look at the world through a filter that “made it more beautiful”.