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The Eyes Have It

Sunglasses have always been a trend among US Presidents. On several occasions John F. Kennedy was seen sporting his trademarked Ray-Ban "Wayfarers", particularly pool side prior to his debate with Richard Nixon. The 1960's ushered in a new style of urban chic. A well fitted suit and a pair of stylish sunglasses spoke to the fashion and the "jet set" tone of the times. JFK was also known to have been a fan of American Optical styles of sunglasses such the Saratoga and Executive Bifocal. He embodied the spirit of youth and was often photographed wearing his sunglasses while yachting, at the U.S. Open, and outdoor presidential presentations. Ronald Reagan often wore a pair of Serengeti and Suntiger brands of sunglasses. Later, Suntiger would rename themselves Eagle Eyes. Current US President Joe Biden is a proud fan and wearer of the classic RB3025's. Former President Barack Obama basically picked up where JFK left off in terms of presidential chic. Obama also wore the iconic Ray-Ban brand of eyewear, even making the front cover of Ebony Magazine wearing the Ray-Ban 3217's. He also owned several pairs of Oliver Peoples OPLL Sun and Lachman brands.

By and large, the pilot was the most romanticized figure of the 20th Century. What made the pilot so appealing was the leather bomber jacket and sunglasses. While the bomber jacket was very expensive, the sunglasses were much more economically feasible, thus easier to obtain. The sunglasses simply made a fashion statement that said "cool". In an iconic scene in the motion picture, The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger plucks his eye out with an exacto knife. He then covers up his robotic eye with a par of Gargoyles sunglasses.

From that point on, the sunglasses became a part of the Terminator's image and persona. As he's wearing the sunglasses while shooting up a police station, although he's the film's arch antagonist, you somewhat begin to root for him. After the success of the film, fans wanted a pair of the sunglasses. The Gargoyles brand and style, although popular among law enforcement and the military throughout the late 1970's and early 1980's many people were unacquainted with the brand and thus affectionately referred to them as "the Terminators". Sales shot through the roof and of course you will have imitations and knock-offs.

In the second installment of the Terminators series, the opening scene shows Arnold Swarzenegger thrashing patrons in a motorcycle bar out of their clothing. As he commandeers a Harley-Davidson, the bar owner attempt to stop him. The Terminator then dismounts the bike, walks up to him and takes the owner's sunglasses. Not only was it the tough guy manner in which he took the glasses but the cool way in which he put them on his face. With George Thorogood's "Bad To The Bone" blasting as The Terminator rides off into the darkness of the night, while wearing his sunglasses, only added to the bad boy swagger of the character. Subsequently, everyone wanted a pair of Gargoyle sunglasses, surrounded by that one particular scene.

Gargoyles founder Dennis Burns revealed a ground-breaking new lens business. He observed that the curved lenses of that era led to visual distortion and eye strain and that conventional flat sunglasses exposed the eyes to the elements. As necessity is the mother of all inventions, Burns sought to develop the Toric lens technology, which would later serve as the basis for Gargoyles Performance Eyewear. So advanced were his sunglasses that the US Army adopted Gargoyles for its use. The military has always had a love affair for sunglasses. In these contemporary times, the Wiley-X are the most used.

The 1980's saw a host of propaganda films released addressing the Cold War and Middle Eastern state sponsored terrorism taking place at that time. The release of Iron Eagle starring veteran actor Louis Gossett Jr. and Top Gun starring Tom Cruise became classic films of the times with the latter being the most celebrated. Iron Eagle was centered around the high jinks of a teen aged Air Force brat seeking to become a fighter pilot like his dad.

His father is shot down over the skies of a fictitious Middle Eastern country and is taken as an enemy prisoner of war (POW) and subsequently used as a pawn by the country's president. True to the United States' position at the time as not negotiating with terrorists, nothing was done to secure the American pilot's release. In what seems a few weeks or perhaps a month, Louis Gossett Jr. as reservist Colonel "Chappie" (an ode to real life USAF General Daniel "Chappie" James) becomes sympathetic to the teenager's desire to see his father's return home. He then trains him in the aerial combat skills of an F-16 pilot.

The earlier parts of the film has the feel of an early 1980's ABC Afterschool Special. It also plays to the geopolitics of its day. Just a few years previously in December of 1983, two US Navy A6 Intruder pilots were shot down over the skies of Syria. Navy Lieutenant Mark Lange and Lieutenant Robert Goodman both ejected but Lange eventually died due to his injuries. Goodman was captured and remained imprisoned for a month. The Reverend Jesse Jackson who was a US Presidential candidate at the time, managed to secure his release a month later. The whole ordeal brought the US Navy front and center, while bolstering patriotic confidence in the nation. Around the time of Iron Eagle's release, President Reagan had ordered an airstrike by US Air Force F-111's to bomb Lybian dictator Momar Quadaffi's palace in retaliation to a state sponsored bombing of a night club in Germany. So, the film was very relevant to the current events of its time. Iron Eagle concludes with Colonel Chappie and Masters having to appear before an Air Force board for a possible reprimand. It was suggested that he receive a direct appointment to the US Air Force Academy. The fact that the movie is primarily aimed at attracting teens, it gave teenagers a sense of having a dog in the fight against terrorism and the Cold War. For a teenager at the time, they couldn't become a fighter pilot before graduating high school like Todd Masters, but they could own a pair of sunglasses.

Baby Boomers were eager to put the ghosts of Vietnam past behind. Generation X'ers needed a hero. It came in the form of actor Tom Cruise as alpha male personified US Naval Aviator "Maverick" in the film, Top Gun. Top Gun opened up in theaters in May of 1986, just in time to launch the summer blockbuster season, From that point on it became an American motion picture classic and iconic movie of the 1980's. After one month in theaters, it was such a heralded film that the number of theaters showing the film was increased by 45 percent. It grossed $357 million globally against a production budget of $15 million. Top Gun went on to become the highest-grossing domestic film of 1986.

There were several factors that went into this motion picture being the icon that it is. It embodied the swagger and sex appeal of the American hypermasculine male. It showcased the bravado of the highly competitive pilots who were pushing the envelope of combat air warfare, while swimming in an ocean of testosterone, who in the end is able to get the girl. The exact type that you'd want defending the skies. Maverick had the motorcycle, charisma, nice fitting jeans, and of course, the Ray-Ban 3025 Aviators.

When Top Gun first opened in theaters, sales of the brand’s 3025 Aviators rose by nearly 40 percent in the seven months after the film’s May 1986 release. This is actual proof that the movie sold the sunglasses. When Top Gun:Maverick came out in May of 2022, Ray-Ban saw a sharp increase in sales of the iconic eyewear once again making it one of the year's highest selling sunglasses worldwide. As soon as you don a pair, its almost as if you can hear "Fly Into The Danger Zone" and "Take My Breath Away" playing inside of your head.

"Into the danger Zone", by Kenny Loggins was the feature song on the Top Gun soundtrack. The Top Gun soundtrack to the film has since become one of the most popular movie soundtracks to date, reaching 9 x platinum certification. The film won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for "Take My Breath Away" performed by Berlin. Into the Danger Zone saw a reprisal in 2022's Top Gun: Maverick.

By Christmas of 1986, the hot items of many people's Christmas wish list were the military patched A-2 and G-2 bomber jackets which were considerably expensive. But for the practical guy looking to make a splash and of course be a hit with the ladies, there were the aviator sunglasses. Army Navy surplus stores couldn't keep enough of them. At many of the popular air shows at the time, vendors looking to make guaranteed sales had them on full display. So what is the story on the coveted eyewear?

US Army Air Corps Colonel John Macready, who was an early proponent for the military application of the airplane, became increasingly frustrated at how his pilots' goggles would fog up, greatly reducing visibility at high altitudes. This would render them combat ineffective. Therefore, in 1929 he met with Bausch & Lomb optometrists to create aviation sunglasses that would reduce the distraction for pilots caused by the intense blue and white hues of the sky.

In 1936 Ray-Ban had been founded as a civilian division of Bausch & Lomb. The prototype, created in 1936 and known as "Anti-Glare", had plastic frames and green lenses that could cut out the glare without obscuring vision. This style of sunglasses is credited with being one of the first popularized style of sunglasses to be developed. In its military usage, the sunglasses replaced the outmoded flight goggles used previously, as they were lighter, thinner, and "more elegantly designed". The first sunglass to incorporate an anti-glare lens, the metal frame was extremely lightweight and made from gold-plated metal with two green lenses that filtered out Ultra Violet rays.

The first aviator sunglasses were commissioned by the US Armed Services in 1935. The original style was the Army Air Corps D-1, designed by American Optical. Starting with the early days of open cockpit aircraft, pilots often complained of intense glare which often lead to headaches. The top brass reached out to Bausch & Lomb in 1937. The requirements were a pair of specs for both military and civilian, that would significantly reduce glare, but not impede the pilot's vision.

They were an instant relief and hit with the aviators in the pre-World War II era. During the WWII era they were a preferred choice of not only pilots but non-aviators as well. Legendary generals such as General Douglass MacArthur and General George Patton were often photographed in their sunglasses. When General MacArthur was photographed going ashore after his famed statement, "I shall return", he was wearing his famed sunglasses and corn husker pipe. From that point on they became the epitome of cool and eventually a tradition. In 1987, Bausch & Lomb dedicated an entire line to General MacArthur.

In 1941 American Optical released their second edition, the AN6531. They were made to fit the standards of both the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Navy. Therefore, they are referred to as the AN6531 (AN: Army/Navy) military sunglasses. The AN6531 sunglasses standardized the teardrop shaped lenses we know today. This shape was chosen for the pilots who were constantly looking down at their instrument panels while flying. . The color of the lenses was originally green but was changed to a rose smoke color. The nickel-plated frame was made out of copper alloy so that it wouldn’t interfere with compasses.

According to American Optical’s website: “Between 1943 and 1944, a total of 10 million goggles frames, 5 million pairs of sunglasses and over 6.5 million pairs of lenses were ground and polished including 1.4 million prescriptions delivered to the Armed Forces”.

The sunglasses were initially designed to be worn under helmets. However, with the dawn of the jet age, helmets began to undergo radical changes. The teardrop design had become too bulky. This required a new design for aviator sunglasses. A new design was developed that had a more comfortable library temple, was easier to put on and take off with helmets and headsets, and was more compatible with oxygen masks. They were designated as the U.S. Air Force Type HGU-4/P aviator sunglasses and recommended for use on November 5th, 1958. The Type HGU-4/P aviator sunglasses were then duly adopted by the Air Force. They were in use by astronauts throughout the heyday of NASA’s Mercury and Apollo missions in the 1960s. They were said to be the first sunglasses worn on the moon, and continue to be used today, although aviator sunglasses have largely been supplanted by tinted visors in flight helmets. Also, they were adopted for use by the US Army pilots during the 1960's.

The harsh humidity in the tropical jungles of Vietnam caused condensation on standard military issued eyeglasses. Therefore sunglasses were permitted for wear by both aviators and ground personnel as well. The first contractor was American Optical, who developed the style. They were joined by Randolph Engineering in the 1980s. In the motion picture, Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore wore them during the epic scene in which he led a 1st Cavalry air assault mission into a Viet Cong stronghold. Along with his Cavalry Stetson, and yellow ascot, the aviator sunglasses helped to solidify his ultra machismo and alpha dog personality.

Aviation sunglasses are essentially a part of the pilot's uniform, persona and image. For some it makes them look more attractive and having a greater sense of confidence. The right pair of sunglasses add facial symmetry. They add a sense of glamour and style. Also, they add a sense of mystique, just as tinted windows add an aura of mystique and glamour to automobiles. The added mystique makes a person seem more interesting. They simply say, "suave". There is a reason why the "cool emoji" is wearing sunglasses.

Sunglasses, especially designer sunglasses such as Gucci, Versace, and Prada add a sense of perhaps affluence, status, and glamour. Vanessa Brown with Nottingham Trent University suggested that sunglasses make people more attractive because of added dimension of facial symmetry. She also wrote in her book, "Cool Shades: The History and Meaning of Sunglasses", that sunglasses have evolved as a culturally significant iconic fashion staple. Ubiquitous in fashion, advertising, film and graphic design, sunglasses are the ultimate signifier of 'cool' in mass and popular culture, a powerful attribute pervading much fashion and pop cultural imagery. She goes on to illustrate the complex variety of meanings they have, such as the power to articulate, through associations with vision, light, glamour, darkness, fashion, speed and technology in the context of modernity.

For starters, sunglasses signal a sense of power. This is why they are generally worn by law enforcement. They say authority. Second, they draw attention to the face which often invokes mystique. Thirdly, sunglasses add symmetry to the face. The mystique, when combined with symmetry and glamor produces iconic glamor brands and styles such as the "cat eyes", Jackie Ohh and Dior as worn by Audrey Hepburn.

In the film, "Breakfast At Tiffany's", which was based on the 1958 Truman Capote novel, Audrey Hepburn brought elegance, style, fashion, and class to a generation in an unparalleled way. In her "little black dress" and "Holly Golightly" sunglasses she became an American cultural icon and Breakfast At Tiffany's became an instant classic. In the film, Audrey Hepburn, or "Holly", portrays an upward bound socialite and aspiring model/actress. Her demeanor and persona throughout the film is further characterized by her sunglasses, which also enhance her upper-class and sophisticated appearance. Over six decades later, the sunglasses worn by Hepburn are still fashionable which speak to their timeless appeal and are frequently duplicated and sold worldwide.

Initially, air travel was associated with the upper-class elite. When people travelled, they looked the part. Whether it was clothing, luggage, and amenities while in-flight, air travel spoke to the social standing of the passengers. The persona of Holly Golightly still resonates today with today's modern women of professional and acquired refinery. Designer sunglasses are an immediate way to make a solid fashion statement. A-list celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Christina Aguilera, Kourtney Kardashian, Justin Timberlake, Gerard Butler, and Lady Gaga are worldwide known for being fans of Prada Sunglasses.

For many of today's upwardly mobile and professional women, designer sunglasses are a much sought after accessory. Mrs. Tomeka Clemons-Yow has an assorted collection of designer sunglasses including a pair of Shauntae-Shades from Mi No Farina. Mrs. Clemons Yow, a Birmingham resident, wife and mother seeks to personify the elegant and sophisticated professional woman. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Alumni and former UAB dance girl is also well traveled. Serving as a Healthcare Project Manager with 20 years of experience, has traveled extensively to Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas and all over the US for work.

Mrs. Clemons-Yow who is also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, chose the Shauntae-Shades brand not just for their sophisticated and glamorous look, but because Mi No Farina is an African-American female owned small business.

Mino Farina pronounced "Mi No Farina" in patois, the Jamaican dialect, means "I am not a foreigner". The Mino Farina design luxe travel bags are for people who enjoy seeing the world beyond the television screen. According to the owner, "Everywhere you go you will always find something from that place that you can relate to and that makes you connected, hence the term Mi No Farina". The Shauntae Shades come in a variety in both rectangular and round frames and green and gold, pink, and orange colors.

The Federal Aviation Administration recommends particular lenses on sunglasses over some others. For example, a gray tint is a good selection because it distorts color less than yellow, amber brown, or orange. An interesting factor is that the colored lenses can make it difficult to distinguish navigation lights and signals. The American Optometric Association recommends wearing sunglasses that incorporate 99 – 100% UVA and UVB protection. Fortunately, UVC, the most harmful form of UV radiation, is absorbed by the atmosphere’s ozone layer before it actually reaches the Earth’s surface. However, some scientists believe that depletion of the ozone layer may allow more UV to pass through the atmosphere, making 100% UV protection a wise choice when selecting effective eyewear.

In addition to the tint of sunglasses, many pilots may not be aware that polarized lenses are not the best choice for pilots. Polarized lenses are remarkably effective at eliminating glare, making them an ideal choice for outdoor activities such as skiing, golf, boating, and even tinted visors for football helmets. Prior to WWII, sunglasses were initially promoted and sold as sporting equipment. However, there is one activity where polarized lenses are actually detrimental and that is flying. Polarized lenses can reduce the ability to read instruments that already incorporate anti-glare filters. In addition to that, they also interfere with the ability to read LCD instruments, which emit polarized light.

Sunglasses will forever remain a critical component to the identity and persona of the aviator. Although they embody authority, machismo, elegance, and other Alpha personality traits, they foundation of their existence is to improve a pilot's optometrics. We now know the aesthetics behind the esteemed eyewear. But what goes into producing a first-rate lens?

The three most common lens materials today are optical-quality “crown” glass, monomer plastic (CR-39), and polycarbonate plastic. Lenses made from crown glass provide excellent optical properties. Crown glass is more scratch-resistant, but heavier and less impact-resistant than plastic. Although crown glass absorbs some UV light, absorption is improved by adding certain chemicals during the manufacturing process or by applying a special coating. Crown glass lenses retain tints best over time, but for higher refractive correction, the color may be less uniform, as part of the lens will be thicker than others.

The CR-39 plastic lenses possess excellent optical qualities, are lighter in weight, and more impact-resistant. CR-39 lenses tint easily and uniformly, even for those requiring a great deal of refractive correction, but do not hold tints as well as glass. As far as longevity goes, CR-39 plastic lenses can be bleached and retinted if fading becomes excessive at some point.

In 1953, two scientists working independently on opposite sides of the world developed polycarbonate within one week of each other. Initially used for electrical and electronic applications such as distributor and fuse boxes, polycarbonate became a popular lens option in the 1980's. Since then, polycarbonate lenses have become the standard for safety glasses, sports goggles and children's eyewear, and its popularity shows no signs of diminishing. Polycarbonate plastic lenses are lighter than CR-39 and the most impact-resistant lenses available. Polycarbonates plastic lenses have a low Abbe value, indicating their inherent optical aberrations. The application of an anti-reflective (AR) coat can improve optical quality, particularly when a high refractive correction is required. The anti-reflective treated lenses have built-in UV protection and are manufactured with a scratch-resistant coating that is much stronger than that applied to CR-39 lenses.

Our eyes are our best assets. As pilots and aviators, we live by our eyes because our eyes are our lives. As it has been said, the eyes are the windows to the soul. Therefore, they must be safeguarded. The most common types of eye injuries are scratches and abrasions such as from fingernails or tree branches. Also, there are foreign bodies – such as small pieces of grit, wood or metal getting in the eye. penetrating or cutting injuries – such as cuts from glass or projectiles flung from tools, especially when hammering or using power tools. Flying debris accounts for a large majority of workplace injuries. In fact, 70% of serious eye injuries are caused by flying or falling objects, and 60% of these objects are smaller than the head of a pin. Scratches and abrasions such as from fingernails or tree branches. Also, there are foreign bodies – such as small pieces of grit, wood or metal getting in the eye. penetrating or cutting injuries – such as cuts from glass or projectiles flung from tools, especially when hammering or using power tools.


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Aug 09, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Awesome article!! Who knew!!


Aug 05, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Excellent article !

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