The Ultimate Legends of 1980s Eyewear
If we were to mention the 1980s, you’d be forgiven if the first thing that came to mind was a loud outfit accompanied by a synthpop anthem. It’s hard to believe that the decade remembered for shoulder pads, mullets and legwarmers is now more than 40 years old. Of course, dramatic style and questionable hairdos aren’t all that the eighties gave us; over the course of the decade, the world was blessed with iconic style and experimental aesthetics.
From music and films to celebrities, activists and big-thinkers, the 1980s are remembered for significant cultural shifts and, of course, their many trend-setting fashion statements. Whilst some fads disappeared after brief bursts of popularity, others stuck around and remain popular all this time later. Among these, are a number of glasses styles!
No discussion of 80s fashion would be complete without a nod to our iconic framed friends, so we’ve compiled a complete guide to life through the lens of the 1980s.
Read on to discover the many styles popularised by this iconic decade.
A Decade Of Icons
As is often the case with fashion, the garments and accessories of the 1980s were popularised by the individuals that sported them. Owing to the rise in celebrity journalism, fashion photography and big-screen cinema, famous faces from all walks of life were captured in some of the most iconic lenses and frames of all time. Without such icons, it is likely that certain glasses would not have exploded into the cultural spotlight in quite the same way.
From actors and musicians to supermodels, comedians and even royals, we’ll highlight a handful of trend-setting individuals as well as the glasses they were known to rock.
First up on our list is none other than Tom Cruise. More specifically, we’re talking about his role in the 1983 comedy-drama ‘Risky Business’. Throughout the film, Cruise wears a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers, a design now notorious for its association with cool cats and teenage rebels. We’ll dive into the specifics of the style a little later in this article, but their huge re-resurgence in popularity during the mid-80s can be largely attributed to Cruise’s role on screen.
Of course, this was no fluke; it was actually the result of some very well-placed advertising from Ray-Ban. The brand’s paid placement in the film played a crucial role in the explosive rise in Wayfarer sales over the next decade.
While we’re on the topic of Wayfarers, we’d be crazy to overlook the queen of pop herself, Madonna. With chart-topping singles and music videos that changed the face of pop, the 1980s saw Madonna rise to stardom and into public consciousness around the world. What’s more, the musician was known for her fashion statements including, you guessed it, sunglasses.
From her early career to the height of her fame in the 80s, Madonna was often pictured wearing a pair of all-black Wayfarers; it’s no wonder they’re so popular. Wayfarers aren’t the only eyewear popularised by the star though; Madonna can be seen wearing a pair of gorgeous cat-eye glasses in the music video for her song ‘Material Girl’, released in 1984. This style of shade first hit the shelves in the 50s but, owing to celebrity styling, burst back onto the scene in the 80s!
Next up, we’re moving on from the queen of pop to real royalty; among her many accolades, Princess Diana will always be remembered for her undeniable style. Diana’s confidence as a royal and an individual was reflected through the eye-catching outfits and bursts of colour that soon became synonymous with her look.
Alongside the multitude of striking clothing worn by the people’s princess were, of course, a number of memorable sunglasses. Diana became known for her love of larger-than-life bug-eye-style shades, perhaps most notably, her oversized aviators. Throughout the 1980s, Diana was frequently pictured using statement frames to add a burst of life to her outfits, and it certainly worked.
Know Your Frames
Of course, to us, the many iconic glasses of the 1980s are the real stars of the show, playing a huge role in summer fashion trends and appearing throughout popular culture. For many styles, the 80s were just the beginning, and they remain as popular as ever today.
Below, we’ll outline some of our favourite 80s frame styles, pointing out what makes them unique and the reasons they’ve managed to stand the test of time.
As mentioned above, Wayfarers were undoubtedly one of the defining styles of the 80s. Having first hit the markets in the 1950s, this iconic style experienced a huge resurgence owing to celebrities and fashionistas across the globe sporting the look.
Following the advancement in plastic manufacturing techniques, Ray-Ban launched the first Wayfarer back in 1952. Initially, sales weren’t spectacular, but as they gained a reputation for their reflection of cool, calm charisma, the shade began to take off. These sunglasses are now renowned for their sleek design and balance of form and functionality, helping them stand out from the crowd.
Though the Wayfarer was popular throughout the 60s and 70s, sales boomed during the 1980s. Following the endorsement of celebrities such as Tom Cruise, the style exploded back onto the scene.
Next on our list is another classic design, the Clubmaster. This style of glasses is instantly recognisable owing to their crisp square upper frame and minimal wire lower half. These glasses experienced a massive surge in popularity during the 80s and, much like the Wayfarer, there was an actor to thank.
A young Bruce Willis sported a pair of Ray-Ban Browlines on the show ‘Moonlighting’. Owing to the show’s popularity, the Browline, first released in 1947, was reintroduced as the Clubmaster. Initial sales of the Clubmaster were, unsurprisingly, huge, and they were ranked as the 3rd most popular sunglasses of the decade, just behind Wayfarers and Aviators.
Talking of Aviators, it will come as no surprise that these iconic shades played a major role in the fashion of the 80s, though they were not a new design by any means. Originally manufactured as a functional means of keeping the sun out of pilots’ eyes, the appropriately named Aviators featured a minimalist wire frame and curved lenses. Soon after the second world war, however, Aviators were launched for civilian purchase and became incredibly popular.
Fast forward to the 80s and, as a result of another piece of tactical product placement in the Top Gun film, Aviators experienced a real boom in sales. Owing to their cool aesthetic, lightweight frames and rich history, it’s no wonder they remain so popular today.
Moving away from Ray-Ban’s finest and towards the more extravagant side of 80s fashion, we couldn't miss the iconic Cateye resurgence of the 80s. As we touched upon earlier, this style of glasses was sported by superstars such as Madonna. By pairing the retro style of Manhattan in the 50s with the new-wave fashion of the 80s, Cateye frames once again came into their own.
It’s hard to believe this style of shade wasn’t born straight out of the 80s, as the bold shapes, striking form and over-the-top designs seem as if they were a match made in heaven.
Last but by no means least, we wanted to take a moment to appreciate the larger-than-life appeal of Butterfly frames. Most notably championed by Princess Diana, these bug-like shades were a huge hit throughout the 80s and continue to accentuate outfits in high fashion and street style today.
Authentic Designer Eyewear From Ed & Sarna
Here at Ed & Sarna, we take great care in the process of selecting and curating our collection of 100% authentic vintage sunglasses. With stock from leading designers, such as Burberry, Gucci, Ray-Ban and Yves Saint Laurent, we’re certain you’ll find what you’re searching for.
What’s more, we understand that every style is unique. That’s why every pair of glasses we sell can be fitted with alternative colours and prescription lenses. Whether you’re channelling your inner Madonna or simply looking for a vintage addition to your modern wardrobe, you can count on us.
Get in touch today to discuss your needs and discover our wide range.