“Sunglasses were not always used to protect people’s eyes from the sun”
Today people can wear sunglasses everyday throughout the world, for protection and fashion. With so many designs and styles of sunglasses to choose from, it can be hard to imagine a time before the invention of the sunglass. Although probably difficult to believe; sunglasses have not always been used to protect people’s eyes from the sun.
The first sunglass may have been made circa 1200AD to 1600AD by the Inuit people of North Baffin. The Inuit people of Alaska and Canada may have worn iggaak hunting glasses to prevent glare from the sky and snow. The Iggaak’s may have been created using bone, leather or wood and containing small slits through which the wearer could see.
There is competition for the title of the world’s very first sunglass. In the 12 century the Chinese created a sunglass that provided respite from the glare of the bright sun. However it is thought to have been chunky, uncomfortable and did not offer protection against UV radiation. These early Chinese sunglasses were made from quartz and held against the wearers face with a rough frame. Darkened quartz lens sunglasses were considered useful for Chinese judges. As when worn they could veil emotional attachment and feelings when examining the accused.
Sunglasses did not enter technological development until around the mid 18th century. This was when James Ayscough experimented with tinted lenses. However, Ayscough’s primary work focused on correcting vision and not protecting the eyes from the suns UV rays. It wasn’t until 1929 that sunglasses were transformed by Sam Foster into what we see today because Foster introduced the protective sunglass to America.
Current legislation now influences the industry standard by providing guidance on how sunglasses should be manufactured. This means that sunglasses are designed and manufactured to make them safer and with the correct levels of protection for wearers.
For further information about the history of sunglasses click the links below where you will find further resources.