The History Of Sunglasses Plus Tips



Inuit peoples in prehistoric times used flattened walrus ivory, and fashioned it into a type of eye lens to block out the sun with the help of animal hides, such as sealskin. 

They found that that technique made seeing easier when the sun was really bright!  

Also, since the snow in the Arctic can obviously get very bright and glaring, their eyes needed protection from that. 

This is the first known reference to sunglasses that we know of.

The earliest historical reference to sunglasses dates back to ancient China and Rome. 

Nero, a Roman emperor, apparently watched gladiator fights through polished gems.

emperor nero

In the 12th century A.D. in China, or maybe even earlier than that, sunglasses were made out of lenses that were flat panes of smoky quartz. 

We aren’t sure how knowledgeable the Chinese were at the time regarding the nature of the sun’s rays, but at least the quartz helped with the sun’s glare, so it probably wasn’t just a style choice at the time. 

It was said that judges in the Chinese courts would hide their faces behind a type of sun glass, to protect their identity from the person on trial, and the other people in the court room. 

first sunglasses in china

James Ayscough was an optician living in England in the 1700’s. 

He did a lot of work with lens, and believed that blue or green tinted glass had the potential to correct some vision problems. 

The sun’s rays were not a concern at this time in history. 

By the 19th century, it was known that yellow/amber tinted glasses seemed to help people with syphillis, because of their sensitivity to light.

tinted old glasses

Hollywood celebrities were using sunglasses extensively in the early 1900’s. 

Maybe that is why Sam Foster, the guy credited with inventing modern sunglasses, decided to investigate the concept a little more in the 1920’s. 

Sam Foster, maverick that he was, began to mass produce sunglasses under the label Foster Grant, and commercializing the concept “cool”. 

He sold them at the Woolworth department store, located in Atlantic City New Jersey, on the famous beach boardwalk. 

His claim was that they would not only make people who wore them look more important, but his sunglasses would protect their eyes from the UV rays from the sun.  

Way to stratify the culture, Sam!

foster grant sunglasses

In 1936, Edwin H. Land began making sunglasses using his patented polaroid filter. 

The Ray-Ban company created an anti-glare aviator style sunglass during WW II.  They used polarization also. 

Ray-Ban sunglasses became the most popular brand of sunglasses and in 1937, Ray-Ban made them available to the public.

ray bans 1937

Today, UV (UltraViolet) protection in sunglasses is standard.  There are many different brands and styles coming from all over the globe. 

It is very important to wear sun glasses at the beach.  The sun’s rays can be extremely damaging to the eyes. 

Of course, you want to look your best at the beach, but you most certainly want your eyes protected. 

When purchasing sun glasses, they should be polarized, have eva/uvb protection, be scratch resistant, and a perfect fit. 

Style is also important because if you don’t think the sun glasses compliment your appearance, you probably won’t wear them.

sunglasses at the beach safety

When purchasing sun glasses, you need to be well informed before you go into the shop. 

We are going to provide you with some simple, but necessary information about sunglasses so you can make the best decision. 

Sun glasses are very expensive, unless you find a used pair at a second hand store.  We don’t recommend you wear used glasses.

Let’s get smarter!

The sun produces energy in the form of light rays and radiation rays that you can’t see.  

There is a protective layer surrounding the Earth called ozone that acts as a filter to protect us from the harmful ultraviolet rays. 

Humans produce pollution, which is breaking down the ozone layer, causing the invisible UV rays to harm us quicker and easier. 

This is the main reason we need to use good quality sunscreen on our skin, and good quality sunglasses on our eyes.


If we are not smart about this, there are lots of different eye diseases that we can get from this bad energy from the sun, such as cataracts.  

We want to keep all of our Beach Babies smarter and healthier. So read on …

UVA And UVB Rays

There are basically 2 different types of ultraviolet rays you need to be aware of.  UVB rays are filtered partially by our ozone layer, but some still reach us here on Earth. 

In low doses of UVB, these rays produce melanin, which is a type of skin pigment, and we get tanned.  Most of us love a good tan.  

But higher doses of UVB rays can burn our skin, causing skin cancers, wrinkles, and signs of aging quicker.  

UVA rays have lower energy than the UVB rays, and can work their way into your eyes, and reach the lens and retina causing damage.  You don’t want that to happen.

uva uvbeplainedlarge

Surprisingly, cloud cover doesn’t affect UV levels significantly. Your risk of UV exposure can be quite high, even on hazy or overcast days.  

This is because UV is invisible radiation, not visible light, and can penetrate clouds.

Here is a warning system provided by the Environmental Protection Agency and National Weather Service  that you might find useful. 

When the weather people are telling you about the weather for the day, they will mention the ultraviolet level. We suggest you cut it out and post it on your fridge.

Snow Blindness

UVB rays also can cause photokeratitis, which is an inflammation of the cornea in your eye. 

Snow blindness or photokeratitis, causes temporary vision loss that can last up to 2 days. 

skier helmet sunglasses

The risk for snow blindness is greatest at high altitudes, but it can occur anywhere there is snow, if you don’t protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses.

Outdoor Risks

We all like to be outside – especially at our favourite beach.  The UV rays from the sun will always be there no matter what the weather.  

These bad rays are greater in warm tropical beach locations.  The farther you are from the equator, the less risk there is, but most of our great beaches are close to the equator. 

You can always wear your sunglasses. 


Not only are UV rays stronger at higher altitudes, they are stronger when the sun is higher in the sky, so between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., wear those glasses for sure. 

The bad rays are greater in wide open spaces such as on the sand, and in the water. 

Surfers would be smart to wear their sunglasses while surfing.  Finally, there are certain medications that make your eyes more susceptible to these bad UV rays. 

Ask your doctor about this, but to be safe, wear your sunglasses when you are outside.

Shopping for Sunglasses

  • When shopping for sunglasses, ask the sales clerk all the important questions such as …
  • “Are the lenses polarized?”
  • “Are the lenses scratch resistant?”
  • “What type of lens is best for me?”
  • “What style of frame is best for me?”
  • “Which sunglasses are best for someone with sensitivities or allergies?”
  • “What is the warranty?”
  • “Do these sunglasses protect me from both UVA and UVB rays?”


A Quick Recommendation…

One of the most popular sunglasses ever to grace Amazon’s product pages, and which tick off all of the boxes mentioned above, is …  

Ray-Ban Aviator RB3025 Large Metal Aviator Sunglasses

  • Produced in the USA with high tech design and technology.
  • Frames are metal with padded tips.
  • Lenses are, tinted from the top down (gradient), with an etched logo, and prescription ready.
  • Lenses aren’t polarized (no glare reduction), but they have 100% UV protective coating.
  • Lens’ width is 2.2″ by 1.9″ height 
  • Bridge is 1/2″ in length with a 5.3″ arm.
  • Several case colors available
  • Case is made with protective material.
  • Estimated at $200.

What else you should know

There are fake Ray-Bans out there.  Get the real deal!  Find these aviators in a store and try them all on, until you find what you want.  

They are as good as they have always been, and the quality is still there.  Some styles are not scratch resistant.  These are!  

Over 4000 customers gave these sunglasses an almost perfect score 4.8/5. 


About the author: Alice is always smiling, even when jet lagged!  For a long time, she lived in a small town working at a beach shop, but she eventually spread her wings and got to see the world, but she always feels a strong connection to the place she considers her home.