There are sunglasses—and then there are aviators. Few eyewear options offer the same level of cachet and clout as these must-have accessories. They were initially introduced in 1936 by Bausch & Lomb. The style was championed for its sleek and sophisticated silhouette, but it was largely a functional invention.
The entire goal was to create something that military pilots could wear while in flight. Clouds, sunlight, and bold colors all served as significant distractions, and Bausch & Lomb was tapped to design something that would improve visibility and prevent glare all at once. The result was the Anti-Glare, a pair of plastic glasses with green lenses.
It was a start, but history was truly made in 1939 when the brand introduced the Ray-Ban Aviator. It was the little details that helped these sunglasses perform: specialized Kalichrome lenses were designed to reduce haze and create a sharper image. Pilots could finally fly with greater authority in hazier conditions. Before long, they made the transition to the civilian world.
And oh, what a transition that was. The aviator’s popularity soared through the decades, and many of the world’s biggest names—among them George Michael, Tom Cruise, Elvis Presley, and Freddie Mercury—donned the sharp sunglasses on stage and screen. Today, they’re as beloved as they’ve ever been. Here are a few of the hottest picks of the moment.
Persol 649 Original
The Persol 649 Original offers more than just a pretty face. It was developed in 1957 for Turin tram drivers, who were often disturbed by environmental factors like dust and polluted air. Since then, it’s appeared on the big screen and earned a devoted following for its artisanal shape and oversize lenses. It even served as the inspiration for the legendary 714, the foldable sunglasses famously worn by Steve McQueen.
Ray-Ban Blaze Aviator
If ever there were a true replication of a classic, it’s the Ray-Ban Blaze Aviator. Smooth lines and a streamlined silhouette lend this pair the type of timeless appeal that you’ll appreciate 20 years down the line. It’s an attention-grabbing style that fits right into your wardrobe, whether you’re heading out on the town for a glamorous date or rushing to the office on a sunny morning. The gradient lenses add a modern finishing touch to these dynamic sunnies.
Tom Ford Ronan Polarized Aviator Sunglasses
When you’re renowned all over the world, you can afford to experiment. That’s true of both the aviator style and Tom Ford, the designer who took it upon himself to craft the remarkably chic Ronan Polarized Aviator Sunglasses. Featuring sturdy acetate frames, they’re etched with the label’s signature “T” symbol at the temples. A departure from the standard aviator style, these eye-catching glasses offer a hint of vintage-era charm.
William Painter The Lume
You may not think much about the construction of your sunglasses when you wear them, but you’ll appreciate that The Lume by William Painter is designed with a hardy aerospace grade titanium. Slightly squared lenses lend them a hint of architectural polish. They’re sturdy and refined at once, with a sporty sensibility that doesn’t quite venture into casual territory. As a result, you can wear these anywhere and everywhere, from work to play.
Gucci Brow Bar Aviator Sunglasses
A cool pair of Gucci frames will never steer you wrong. The brand renowned for its high-end apparel also happens to design the sleekest frames around. Its eye-catching Aviator sunglasses offer the type of enduring appeal that you expect of your shades. They’ll look right at home with everything in your wardrobe, from your well-pressed suits ahead of corporate meetings to baggy shorts and tees on the water.
Dita Flight .004 Polarized
Visionary designs often derive from the most unexpected places. The Dita Flight .004 Polarized is a prime example of such perfection. When the label’s creative team visited the National Championship Air Races in Reno, NV, little did they know it would serve as a spark for the luxe sunglasses. As planes soared above, the team devised the dynamic silhouette. Today it’s a true work of art, made with titanium and following the same reliable lines as the classic silhouette of old.
Barton Perreira Courtier Titanium Aviator Sunglasses
Sometimes you just want to make a statement. If you love the look of aviators but want to venture out of your comfort zone and stand out in a crowd, a pair of Barton Perreira Courtier Titanium Aviator Sunglasses won’t steer you wrong. Constructed with light titanium, these stylish frames capture attention with their crisp green lenses and contrasting champagne frames. The effect is effortlessly cool and always timeless.