The Iconic Wayfarer

1 Jun

The Original Ray Ban Wayfarer in black.

The Original Ray Ban Wayfarer in black.

The Ray Ban Wayfarer has stood the test of time and is now an essential summer accessory, says CHEONG PHIN

Reproduced in various sizes and colours.
Reproduced in various sizes and colours.

The white choice of the celebrities.
The white choice of the celebrities.

FASHION always seems to renew itself on what has come before and the current revival of many things from the exciting 1980s is no exception. It was a time when bright colours, chunky plastic jewellery, leggings, skinny jeans and rock music ruled the world. The younger fashion followers today were only born then and never got to experience the explosive fashion of the ’80s.

It’s therefore easy to see why it is like a breath of fresh air to them and when it’s mixed up with today’s contemporary clothing, we all end up finding that everything old (or ’80s) is new again. One must-have plastic accessory from that era that stood the test of time and is fast becoming a must-have accessory again today is the iconic Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses.

Reproduced and re-imagined in various colours and sizes in almost every fashion corner in London this season, the square framed plastic sunglasses is the essential unisex summer fashion accessory.

The fad started a few years ago when fashion forward celebrities like Chloe Sevigny and Mary-Kate Olsen started wearing vintage Wayfarer frames. The Ray Ban designers soon noticed the increasing popularity of these vintage pieces and the prices they were commanding on eBay.

Responding to this new fashion craze in the market, Ray Ban reintroduced the original Wayfarer design in 2007 with a marketing strategy that included the use of new media like MySpace to connect with a new breed of consumers.

A host of the young Hollywood celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Kirsten Dunst, and British “bad” girl Amy Winehouse have already been spotted wearing these “cool” sunglasses.

The Ray Ban Wayfarer is an iconic design of sunglasses available with polarised lens and spring hinges that has been manufactured by Ray Ban since 1952. It’s reported to be the best-selling style of sunglasses in history and has been labelled as “one of the most enduring fashion icons of the 21st century”.

Designed by Raymond Stegeman, an inventor who procured dozens of patents for Bausch and Lomb (Ray Ban’s parent company), the radically new shape of the Wayfarer was “a mid-century classic to rival Eames chairs and Cadillac tail fins”. According to design critic Stephen Bayley, “the distinctive trapezoidal frame spoke a non-verbal language that hinted at unstable dangerousness, but one tempered by the sturdy arms which, according to the advertising, gave the frames a ‘masculine look’.”

These Wayfarer which took advantage of the new plastics technology at that time was revolutionary and targeted at men initially. However, it became increasingly popular among Hollywood starlets and was evidently a pop culture icon worn by many celebrities for the last 50 years on and off the screen.

In the 1960s, Audrey Hepburn famously paired her Wayfarers with her Givenchy black dress and pearls in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a look that was absolutely “cool”. The oversized shades then were an example of the early Wayfarer silhouette.

A series of design modifications ensued and two decades later, Tom Cruise reinforced the “cool” factor of these dark shades in Risky Business while influential Material Girl Madonna inspired a huge fashion follow up when she wore them in Desperately Seeking Susan. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd even made it looked “cool” in their bad ways in the cult movie The Blues Brothers.

To a certain extent, musicians like Bob Dylan and Blondie also gained their iconic “cool” style from donning these shades. The incredible impersonation of the Dylan character by Cate Blanchett in her recent movie I’m Not There was based on that 1980s iconic look. When celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise started wearing them off-screen, these plastic square frames quickly became the decade’s sunglasses of choice. Apparently, Ray Ban expanded from two models of the Wayfarer in 1981 to more than 40 models in 1989 and the Wayfarer went on to become one of the biggest cultural icons of the ’80s.

If you’ve never owned a pair of Wayfarer sunglasses, it’s never too late to buy one now and enjoy the “cool” Wayfarer experience. The current collection of Ray Ban Wayfarers is available in Original Wayfarer, New Wayfarer and the Wayfarer Folding style. In addition to the classic black and tortoise, they also come in an array of colours such as red, white and blue. You can buy them at almost any optical store that sells Ray Ban products or simply buy online on the Internet from shopping websites like and

The revival of the Wayfarer in mid 2000 and the expiration of Stegeman’s 1953 design patent also produced numerous designs inspired by the original Ray Ban Wayfarer. These include Oliver Peoples’ “Hollis”, REM Eyewear’s “Converse” and various styles by fashion houses such as Juicy Couture, Hugo Boss, Chanel and Marc Jacobs.


New Straits Times

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