The Evolution of Eyewear Fashion

The Evolution of Eyewear Fashion

Ever wonder how your eyewear came to be? Probably not — but today, you’ll learn how the eyewear you’re using right now came into existence and how the styles of yesterday became the building blocks for the frames you currently love. 

We’ll also discuss the evolution of safety eyewear. Spoiler alert: The game didn’t change much from inception until Stoggles arrived on the scene providing innovative options for outdated frames and focusing on both style and safety simultaneously. 

Pull out your blue-light-blocking computer glasses and enjoy this quick read about how the evolution of eyewear shaped the way you “see” the world today.

1. Early Beginnings

Eyewear was born out of what almost every ingenious invention is: necessity. 

Records dating as far back as ancient Rome and Greece. What began as “reading stones,” small pieces of glass shaped into stone-like formations, evolved into crude magnifying lenses that could be held with the hand. 

These devices were created to serve one sole purpose: helping the reader see text that they could not see due to vision impairment. Much of what we know about the style of these handhelds is due to paintings from the time period. Interestingly, there aren’t any women shown holding these reading devices, likely due to the fact that women were not permitted to read. 

By the 17th century, both the Spanish and the Chinese had come up with the idea of stringing the glasses together and looping the strings over the ears so that the spectacles would stay on the reader’s face. 

The earliest materials used to keep eyewear planted securely on the person’s face were leather, string, and cloth. Usually, this resulted in more of a goggle-esque look than actual eyeglasses. 

2. Mid-Century Modernization

By the 1920s, eyewear became more focused on style than on vision correction. Of course, the primary objective of eyewear was, in fact, to correct vision problems, but by the 1900s, the people had spoken. No more strings, cloth, or handhelds would do. They wanted fashionable eyewear, and they wanted it now. 

At the same time, pop culture was making eyewear iconic. John Lennon could easily be seen as the father of the round frame, making it one of the most legendary frame styles that is still very popular today. 

Each consecutive decade had its respective eyeglass trend. The ‘50s brought us cat-eye frames, the ‘60s gave rise to large, oversized eyewear, and the ‘70s are practically synonymous with aviators. Each frame has never completely gone “out of style” but instead has been recalibrated with slight alterations to make it just a little more current. 

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3. Modern Marvels

In the 1980s and 1990s, the rise of designer eyewear shifted the way that people shopped for and experienced vision correction. It was no longer a matter of the right shape or shade, but rather the label that made the frames. 

Designer eyewear wasn’t completely out of reach, either. Even today, your optometrist and optician have numerous pairs of designer frames available. Price point, however, is a different matter. Designer eyewear usually comes with designer prices, making it inaccessible to many who need vision correction (and also want to look good).

What About Sunglasses?

Before indoor plumbing, before the printing press, before vision corrective reading stones, there were sunglasses. Sunglasses date back to prehistoric times, where we have records of Inuit people wearing ivory walrus husks with slits cut into them to protect against snow blindness. 

We also have early records of the use of sunglasses in China. These were pieces of smoke-colored quartz worn by the judge in courtrooms which prevented the parties involved from seeing the judge’s expressions. 

Modern sunglasses as we know them originated in the 18th century, as inventors began to experiment with vision correction using tinted lenses. By the 20th century, sunglass manufacturing was more “full boom.” Eyewear was worn by celebrities to shield their eyes from the glare of cameras and lights, and the military even expanded their use of eyewear to include protective glasses that helped keep eyes safe from the sun. The famous wraparound shape took the stage in the ‘90s — these aerodynamic, hypermasculine styles became the go-to, and they still are. They inspire much of the run of the mill eyewear still available on the market today.

Today, we know that sunglasses are essential for keeping your eyes safe from UV light, which can damage the eyes and lead to early-onset macular degeneration and cataracts. Of note, however, is that the level of shade on your eyewear does not correlate to the UV protection you get. 

UV protection is available even in eyewear that is crystal clear, like our standard Stoggles. To ensure your eyes are fully protected, you need to ensure that the eyewear has a UV rating. Stoggles, for instance, are made from polycarbonate material, which is naturally UV-blocking. 

The (Seriously Brief) History of Protective Eyewear

An inventor named Powell Johnson is credited with developing the first protective safety eyewear in 1880. His invention sought to protect people from intense glare and heat experienced by furnacemen, firemen, and ironworkers. 

These glasses were round and more similar to goggles, creating a seal around each individual eye. By 1914, another inventor created an even larger device (a mask of sorts) that was designed to protect the eyes. Simultaneously, World War I began, and the use of these combination safety glasses and gas masks marked the beginning of higher usage of safety eye protection. 

However, it’s important to note that safety eyewear was primarily created for men. Men served in the war, and men were the ones taking the jobs that required vision safety. Because this was largely a societal norm that existed for decades, the shape and style of safety eyewear didn’t really change. Today, most safety glasses and goggles have the same masculine look, boxy feel, and uncomfortable un-wearability that they once had in the early 1900s.

The look of conventional safety eyewear now takes after the aerodynamic styling found in sports eyewear that launched in the ‘90s — aka, wraparounds. However, they don’t look any less masculine… in fact, they may even look more masculine. 

Manufacturing Challenges With Safety Eyewear 

Of course, Stoggles wasn’t the first to change safety eyewear. As more people began using safety glasses, more companies began to manufacture them. As designs and materials became more readily available, manufacturing challenges presented themselves. 

Notably, plastic frames on safety eyewear were problematic due to the flow of plastic creating flow distortions on eyewear, specifically on the side shields that were made to protect the eyes on the sides of eyewear near the temples. This was particularly problematic when safety eyewear became available with corrective lenses. The corrective prescriptions often warped, causing distortion in vision. 

This issue led to blurriness with vision and even headaches and nausea in extreme cases. 

The Advent of the Wraparound

Again, necessity became the father of invention, and overcoming the problem of warped lenses was a matter of changing the lens shape. Instead of side shields (which were necessary for protection), manufacturers switched to wraparound-style lenses, which eliminated the plastic flow problem by fusing two axes of the eyewear together. 

This look stuck, even though some manufacturers’ wraparound lenses still distorted prescriptions on these types of frames. Additionally, this style became outdated and is often described as a “hypermasculine Lance Armstrong” look. While that look might work for some, especially dudes into cycling, it’s probably not the top choice for others. 

The Stoggles Solution

We approached safety eyewear’s two-fold problem: 

  1. Wraparound lenses weren’t working as well as they could and didn’t provide a lot of options for frame styles, nor were they designed for everyone. 
  2. Eyewear needed to be stylish and safe — not or safe, which has been the case for a long time. 

We went back to the drawing board and collaborated with experts. We worked with renowned brands like Kawasaki and Yamaha, who had perfected clear, undistorted headlights for their motorcycle headlights, to discover whether it was possible to manufacture side shields that did not have the problematic plastic flow problems that the original safety eyewear did. 

We worked hard and made it our goal to achieve the same clarity and quality in eyewear that Kawasaki and Yamaha had achieved with their street bikes. We did it. Our eyewear offers side and top shields that are low profile, completely undistorted, and never warp vision (even when a prescription is applied to the lens). The results? Your eyes stay safe, and your vision stays sharp (without a hypermasculine, wraparound lenses). 

Achieving the Dual Objective

The evolution of Stoggles’ eyewear bridges the gap between functionality and fashion. Our designs protect like safety eyewear should and provide the same coverage safety glasses do. Each pair comes with these standard features.

Light Protection

We offer UV protection and blue light protection in every single pair of Stoggles we manufacture. Whether you are outdoors or indoors, or in front of a screen, you’ll always be protected from intrusive light. We also offer Sun Polarized versions of our eyewear to help give your eyes shade and reduce glare.

Shatter Resistance

Safety eyewear can’t shatter and send shards of material into your eyes. We start by creating our Stoggles with extremely durable, lightweight polycarbonate material. We then test our Stoggles to the ANSI Z87.1-2020 standard to ensure it can resist high-velocity impact. 

Whether you are impacted with a rock, fist, or pellet, your eyes will be protected.

Side and Top Shields

No more worrying about warped vision or gaps at the top of your frames or on the sides. No more settling for eyewear you don’t feel fabulous in. Side and top shields offer the protection you need where regular eyewear leaves you vulnerable without making you look like an insect or causing you to suffer from vision issues, which regular wraparound glasses will do. 

Fog Resistance

Can safety eyewear really be safe if they continually fog? We think not. That’s why every pair of Stoggles comes standard issue with an anti-fogging compound that is sealed onto the lens at the time of manufacture. This keeps your lenses fog-free for a long time, so you can forget about taking your glasses off and wiping them down with your shirt (which is not only unsafe but really inconvenient and not even remotely sanitary). 

Unbelievable Style

Want the iconic cat eyes of the ‘50s or the larger-than-life aviators of the ‘70s? We did that. Our safety eyewear is available in frame shapes that are unexpected and unique in the safety eyewear world. We also offer them in colors that allow you to fully customize your look. 

A design that keeps you safe and maintains a fashionable appearance? You’ve got it. 

Eyewear Evolution

Safety eyewear is essential for essential people, and in case no one has told you today, you’re essential. Whether you need safety eyewear for work or for work around the house or recreation, Stoggles gives you the ability to keep your eyes safe and maintain your impeccable style. 


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