Ray-Ban first introduced wayfarers back in 1956, revolutionizing the world of sunglass fashion forever. The frame has been celebrated over the decades for its universal wearability and confident stylization. The plastic, trapezoidal frames gained immediate popularity and stayed in vogue for almost 20 years before sinking into fashion no-man’s-land and then reappearing again in the 21st century.
In the 1960s wayfarers grew in popularity from being worn by key figures such as John F Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn. Then in the ‘70s the popular frames all but disappeared, only to reemerge with a vengeance in the early ‘80s in a prominent appearance in “The Blues Brothers” in 1980. Though wayfarers enjoyed great success in that year, the style verged on discontinuation after only 18,000 units were sold worldwide in 1981. However, throughout the early-mid ‘80s, they began to show up on many popular actors and in numerous films, reestablishing their popularity. Tom Cruise wore them in “Risky Business” (1983), they showed up in “The Breakfast Club” (1985) and then again in “Miami Vice” (1989); Jack Nicholson wore wayfarers throughout the 80's as did fashion maven Anna Wintour.
Wayfarers even showed up in pop fiction and songs: they appeared in 1984 in Don Henley’s hit song, “The Boys of Summer” and then in 1987 in Bret Easton Ellis’ bestselling novel turned film, “Less Than Zero”. In short, Wayfarers were everywhere throughout the ‘80s, but by the ‘90s, they experienced a major decline and, once again, disappeared from the public eye in the early 2000s.
Related: The rise, fall, and rebirth of clubmaster sunglasses
Wayfarers have reemerged in the second decade of the 21st century as a sunglasses mainstay, pervading both pop culture and main street fashion. They’ve also lent inspiration to designers who use modern techniques to design similar shapes and styles using new materials & processes to craft sunglasses that have timeless appeal for all tastes.
Modern sunglass makers have adapted the wayfarer and added major flare and twists to the design. Proof Eyewear, for example, crafts bamboo and mahogany frames with iridescent colored lenses in their Ontario Wood line for unique and truly interesting looks that, while definitely wayfarers, are total departures from the old materials and craftwork.
Meanwhile Sunski, a Kickstarter-funded label that has boomed in popularity, accents the traditional wayfarer stylization with fun, vibrant colors and reflective lenses that can be worn by just about anyone.
From the more conservative, classic wayfarer-style glasses to brighter, flashier, and more modern versions, there’s a wayfarer for everyone. Some people say style itself is the only thing that never goes out of fashion, and wayfarers certainly have it to spare.