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The History Of Cazal Eyewear

The Vintage Cazal Cheat Sheet

Founder Cari Zalloni and Günter Böttcher
Founded 1975.
Logo Hand-drawn style big C with all caps.
All About Making a statement, you will never fly under the radar in a pair of Cazal frames.
Look Out For The 616, 607 and 858 models.


The man behind the name.

As many will know already the brand name Cazal is portmanteau of one of the founders, Cari Zalloni's name. Born in Athens, Greece in 1937 to a father of Greek-Italian descent and an Austrian mother, Cari would go on to spend his early years living in the hustle and bustle of Greece's ancient city. However, when Cari's father died in 1947 his mother moved to Austria to be closer to her relatives. 

Photo of Carl Zalloni in Vintage Cazal Glasses

It was in Vienna as with many eyewear legends, such as Udo Proksch, that the young Cari would learn his design trade. The city was influenced by all types of design styles given its position, sandwiched between Eastern and Western Europe at a time of considerable distrust between them. He graduated from the Vienna Academy of Applied Arts in 1960 and went to Italy to work for a furniture manufacturer where he would produce lighting designs for a short period. But in 1962 he moved to Germany and began to work within the industry that would come to be his calling, eyewear. He worked for Carrera Optyl at a time when they were the most dominant force in the eyewear world. Cari worked on a number of their house brands but he is best known for his work with their Saphira collection, who's fun designs provide a little glimpse of the work he was about to create.

The early years.

In 1975, Cari struck out on his own, well not entirely, he enlisted help from the entrepreneur Günter Böttcher and together they founded Cazal Eyewear. Right from the off their design aesthetic was clear, make frames that stand out. Whilst they might not be loved by everyone but they are a perfect fit for their fans. A pair of Cazal frames will polarise opinions and get people talking. Over the years the design team at Cazal would play around with the forms that eyewear could take, often being drawn to asymmetric designs and breaking from formalities of eyewear being produced at the time. The culture they started to foster in Germany in the 70s was about to merge with another culture that was being spawned in the US.

Vintage Cazal Advert

A clash of cultures. 

Just as Cazal was getting a burgeoning reputation in Europe as the brand of choice for the street-style lovers, the sound that would help define the 1980s was in its infancy in the US. At block parties across the East coast in the late 70s, the sound of hip hop was starting to be scratched out by legendary DJ's like Kool Herc and Grandmaster Theodore. The braggadocious and contrary style of the lyrics of MC's like LL Cool J and groups like RUN-DMC seemed to marry up perfectly with the designs of Cazal. 

Once Darryl McDaniels of Run D.M.C was seen rocking a pair of 607s, their fans began to clamour for them, and sales soared all over America. Their US distributor Palm-Ultra grew alongside the fame of Cazal and they also started to produce some outlandish frames of their own. It was during this period that many of the legendary Cazals were born. Icons like the 858, as worn by MC Hammer and the 616 worn by Spike Lee now fetch almost $1000 a pair for a pristine condition vintage frame.

Spike Lee in the 616

There is nothing wrong with people wanting to copy their idols and we also love these frames but we feel that to focus too heavily on the most iconic Cazal styles would be doing a disservice to the work that Cazal has produced over the years. From the thick-cut asymmetric style of the pink 183 models to the crazy arm details on the metal 996 frame there is so much to explore and it doesn't need to break the bank. 

Life after death.

When Cari Zalloni died in 2012 from complications following heart surgery a tribute letter from “friends, colleagues and admirers” at Cazal Germany was released.   

“For 50 years, you set the standards in your true passion: styling, product design and art. You created furniture, styled glasses, designed skis and ski boots, made snowboards popular, put your stamp on products and left us pictures with an unmistakable mark. You gave a new face to eyewear through which we see the world. You were the first to create design objects of desire out of vision aids. You revived and reinterpreted material, function and form like no other, creating an international brand sold to this day under your name in more than 60 countries.” 

This eulogy only briefly captures the effect that Cari Zalloni and the Cazal brand have created. To this day Cazal primarily trades upon his original designs and via their re-releasing of the legends series. 

Cazal Vintage Eyewear Advert 1980s

Their success over the years did spawn thousands of copies and fakes, so much so that these have come to be known as Gazelles within the collector circles. At Ed & Sarna we have sourced all of our Cazal collection from reputable distribution houses so you can be sure you are getting the real deal. Check out our collection of vintage Cazal eyewear by clicking the link below. 

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