10 Things Didn't Know About Ray-Ban Wayfarers

What you should know about the world’s most popular sunglasses.

The iconic Wayfarer has appeared on the faces of some of modern history’s most notable personalities, including Madonna, Michael Jackson, Anna Wintour, and Humphrey Bogart. Behind the frames, however, are a few stories worth noting as well:

1. They were originally designed for men.

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When Raymond Stegeman created the Wayfarer in 1952, the style’s strong, sharp angles were considered a masculine design, much like a Cadillac’s tailfins. Despite the cat’s eye often being associated with women’s frames, the Wayfarer’s thick arms and metal stud reinforcements were undeniably macho.

2. They stole the spotlight from other models.

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The design was a massive hit—to the point that other sunglasses were confused for Wayfarers. One of the most prominent cases of mistaken identity was the pair worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Although many assumed they were Wayfarer’s, Hepburn actually wore Manhattans by Oliver Goldsmith.

3. JFK wasn’t wearing them, either.

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John F. Kennedy’s sunglasses of choice, the Saratoga by American Optical, were also often confused for Wayfarers.

4. They used to be produced by Bausch and Lomb.

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Ray-Ban was originally owned by Bausch and Lomb, known today chiefly for its contact lenses and lens care products. The company was sold to the Luxottica Group in the ‘90s, after sales suffered a sharp decline.

5. Tom Cruise saved them from extinction.

Ray-Ban considered discontinuing the style after they sold only 18,000 pairs in 1981. Two years later, however, as part of a $50,000 placement deal, Tom Cruise famously donned Wayfarers in the film Risky Business, and sales soared to 360,000 pairs that year.


6. They’ve undergone a dramatic redesign…

In order to compete with the sports-oriented wraparound styles that were in vogue in the ‘90s, Ray-Ban decided to shrink the size of the frames and soften the angles to the more trapezoidal look we see today. This allowed wearers to rest the sunglasses on the crowns of their heads, a method that was previously impossible.


7. …And then doubled back to the original look

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However, when vintage frames came back into fashion in the late 2000s, Ray-Ban released the RB2140 model, which was virtually identical to the original Bausch and Lomb Wayfarers—save for the metal studs being replaced by the Ray-Ban logo.

8. There are three types of “vintage” Wayfarers.

The modern Wayfarer came in three variations of the original design: Original Wayfarer, which had the same proportions of the 1950s model; New Wayfarer, which had less extreme angles and moderately smaller frames; and Folding Wayfarers, which folded at the nosepiece and arms for portability.

9. A pair of originals could cost you at least $500.

Given the model’s place in history, a pair of pre-Luxottica Wayfarers can fetch a tidy sum from collectors. Verified originals can cost $500 or more. In fact, the highest-priced listing on eBay as of this writing is set at an impressive $3,770.


10. Fakes are flooding the market.

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This makes the market for fakes rather lucrative, so if you’re in the market for vintage Wayfarers, make sure you know the earmarks of an original. Real vintage wayfarers, for example, are heavier than most fakes, as they’re made from acetate instead of injection molded plastic.

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Marco Sumayao
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