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The History of Persol Eyewear

THE PERSOL CHEAT SHEET

Founder Giuseppe Ratti
Founded 1917
Logo The Silver Arrow: based upon the swords of roman warriors.
All About Luxurious acetate frames with outstanding comfort.
Look out for Any of the iconic models such as the 649, 830 or 714.


100 YEARS OF ITALIAN STYLE

Persol is one of the oldest and without doubt most iconic brands in eyewear today. Their silver arrow logo is instantly recognisable and sums up Giuseppe Ratti's founding principles of combining functionality and design. From the humble beginnings of a rustic Turin courtyard during the Great War to the heights they have reached today, a look at the Persol history takes us all over the world. 

Giuseppe Ratti came from a modest upbringing but grew to be an Italian industrial icon before his death. As with many of the world's greatest innovations such as GPS, duct tape and the internet Ratti's development of protective eyewear came amongst the backdrop of war. Whilst working as an optician in his family firm, Berry opticians on Via Cabatto, Ratti began to meet pilots who would complain to him about the issues of sun glare whilst they were fighting in the skies. Giuseppe a keen photographer began to experiment with smoked lenses that would reduce the effects of the blinding sun and his first product "The Protector" was conceived. 

Image of the Protector sunglasses the first made by Persol

FROM THE SKIES TO THE TRACK

Featuring elastic band straps for a tight comfortable fit and lenses edged with rubber the frames were an instant success. The key to this was their smoked crystal lenses made from silica that Ratti developed alongside a German chemist. Over the next 20 years, Persol began to supply the protector frame and its successive iterations to air forces across the globe.

The protector frame also caught the eyes of racing enthusiasts and it became popular with sports racing drivers and motorcyclists. The Lewis Hamilton of his era Juan Manuel Fangio was known to don a pair of Persols in races. They must have done something as Fangio would go on to dominate Formula 1 winning 5 world titles in his career. 

BUILDING THE BRAND

The money that came in from these military supply contracts allowed the Persol brand to aggressively market themselves across Europe. In the late 1920s, Persol adverts designed by Eugenio Colmo first featured "the little Chinese" a crude stereotype of a wise Chinese man. To be honest, to use this ridiculous stereotype as a front for your brand would not fly today however it became a mainstay in Persol advertising for the next 50 years. 

Image of Old Persol Advert Featuring Meflecto and the little chinese

Giuseppe never rested on his laurels and his new design innovations were the focus of these campaigns. His patented Meflecto hinge and arm designs were amongst the first examples of spring-loaded hinges that featured flexible stems. It is a testament to the brilliance of the design that Meflecto arms are still amongst the most comfortable vintage sunglasses you can ever wear.

CEMENTING THEIR STATUS

At a time when Turin was busy building a name for themselves as the home of Nutella and Italian automotive industry, Ratti set his mind to industry too and designed a number of groundbreaking protective masks for skilled labourers across Turin. It was during the post-war era that Persol released a number of their most iconic frames such as the Cellor clubmaster frame which features Persol's trademark cellulose acetates in a half rim frame and the silver arrow hinges. This frame has been copied a million and one times and whilst it occasionally drops out of fashion it never loses its class.

Retro advert for the Persol 649 vintage sunglasses

If you want to show off your vintage Persol knowledge on your mates down the pub however then the model no. to know is the 649. Originally designed for tram drivers in Turin as a larger frame to protect them from the dusty streets, it is no wonder Italians are known to be the most stylish in the world when even their tram drivers are sporting luxury acetate eyewear! The 649 was also worn alongside the Persol 714 folding sunglasses by Steve McQueen in the Thomas Crown Affair and Persol have been laughing their way to the bank ever since. Piers Brosnan even wore Persols in the remake in 1999 but if you want our opinion don't bother with that movie as Steve's performance, like our vintage sunglasses, is just a lot classier. Speaking of class, the 830 model is one of the finest acetate frames for women ever made and is certainly deserving of its iconic status. 

Old Persol Advert for women's sunglasses

ENTERING THE UNKNOWN

Persol eyewear was developed with sporting pursuits and design functionality at its core, the name Persol itself is a portmanteau of the Italian phrase "per il sole" - for the sun. So, it should be of no surprise to you that if a man has been there then a pair of Persols has probably been along for the ride too. Before Persol sunglasses were being readily distributed in the US they were already supplying NASA with their protective frames for budding astronauts. Persol has tested and developed their sunglasses to perform in some of the planets harshest environments from the Siberian tundra to the peaks of the Himalayas and the sands of the Sahara. 

MAKING FASHION A SPORT

With their adrenaline-fuelled origins, it is no shock that Persol has been fronted by some of the greatest Italian sporting icons. As a regular viewer of Football Italia in my youth, I feel now is the time to give a shout out to Alessandro Del Piero who spearheading not just Juventus in the 90s but also the Persol brand. Honorary mention goes out to Filippo Inzaghi who after becoming famous for being born offside also became the Persol flag carrier. If sport is Persol's soul then fashion could be said to be their heart and their early 90s collaborations with Moschino and Emmanuel Ungaro bought classic Italian luxury to go alongside their iconic silhouettes. 

A COLLECTORS DREAM

Owning a pair of vintage Persol glasses frames and sunglasses are a rite of passage for all serious vintage fashion lovers. Whilst the brand was purchased by Luxottica back in 1995 the factory still remains in production keeping Giuseppe's spirit alive. But if you are looking for genuine unworn vintage Persol frames for yourself or an incredibly lucky partner in vintage crime then we have you covered. Check out the link below to shop our current selection of vintage Persol eyewear

Shop For Vintage Persol Frames

CONCLUSION

Persol is more much more than just a brand name they are responsible for some of the greatest eyewear innovations in lensing and comfort. With a legacy that spans a century and includes military, sports and fashion vintage Persol sunglasses are always the right choice. 

 


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