Originally introduced as specialist eyewear for the US Air Force in the mid-1930s, it didn’t take too long for Ray-Ban sunglasses to cross over into the pop-cultural sphere and become one of the great signifiers of 20th-century cool, sported by moody post-war method actors and blank-faced counter-culture stars alike.
The first big name to step out in a pair of Aviators was General Douglas MacArthur, who was photographed wearing them in the Pacific during World War II (the style-conscious French army immediately ordered a job lot for their top brass).
However, it was Humphrey Bogart who really got the Ray-Ban rage rolling. Something of a father figure to the new breed of 1950s big screen talent, Bogie’s sartorial trailblazing was soon taken up by young pretenders James Dean and Dennis Hopper (as a quick side note, Audrey Hepburn was actually wearing a pair of Oliver Goldsmiths in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, not Ray-Bans as is often thought).
The following decade they were the must-have accessory for the new pop aristocracy. Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones all rocked their Ray-Bans, seduced by the glasses’ new-found edgy, arty allure (plus they’re great for hangovers).
From the heart of the establishment to the heart of the anti-establishment in just a few decades, Ray-Bans were then introduced to a whole new generation during the 1980s, thanks in no small part to Michael Jackson’s adoption of the now classic shades to protect him from paparazzi flashbulbs, and to Tom Cruise wearing Wayfarers in Risky Business (1983) and, more famously, Aviators in Top Gun (1986).
Since then, the brand has continued to stand as a barometer of hip, whatever changing fashions happen to be quickly passing through.
But it’s not just a question of style, of course. Technical and design innovation has ensured that Ray-Ban has always been in demand within the aviation and sporting spheres.
Not least in Formula One, where earlier this summer Scuderia Ferrari announced that the company’s famous logo would now be part of the single-seater’s livery.
Time to add Sebastian and Kimi to that long list of iconic figures who don those ever-elegant Ray-Ban shades.