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Flying High With Aviator Sunglasses

Tom Cruise may have made aviators look good when he played the ace fighter pilot in the 1980s classic, “Top Gun”, but aviator sunglasses have been around for far longer than Mr. Mission Impossible. Cruise can jump up and down on a couch in anger at this, but it’s a matter of fact—real air force pilots have been wearing the classic aviator sunglasses since almost as long as airplanes have been around. They’re called aviators after all!

The classic pilot sunglasses first came about in the 1930s, when airplanes became a major part of the modern military of the United States. That is when pilots were still flying around in prop planes, but they were already getting the reputation of being renegades and daredevils, and they needed a special set of sunglasses to set them apart from your average soldier—your average man for that matter.

Aviators made it big time during World War II, when pilots needed high-performance eye wear for fighting over the skies of Europe and Asia. They came with impact-proof lenses, so that they could take a beating and not crack. And for good looks, they came with classic gold frames and dark lenses. Think of how handsome U.S. pilots must have been in their dress khakis, hair slicked back like Fonzi, and a pair of these beauts on their face!

The style that is traditionally associated with aviators, though, didn’t make its first real debut until the year 1958. Back then, their official military name was the Flight Goggle 58. That name, of course, doesn’t have much marketing potential, but they worked great. They protected the pilots’ eyes from the sun, provided crisp vision in case of dog fights or other important missions, and to top it off, were extremely comfortable on long flights.

It’s amazing to think, but these original aviators were so popular among fly boys that the most distinguished pilots of them all—NASA astronauts—took them on the famous moon landing of 1969. Because of this famous feat, aviator sunglasses are part of the exhibit at the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C.

And aviators weren’t just the sunglasses of choice for the grunts and the lieutenants and captains of the U.S. navy and air force. Even the higher ups appreciated the protection from the glare of the sun, as well as the style of aviator sunglasses. None other than General Douglas MacArthur, of Japanese campaign fame and the Korean War, sported a stylish pair of aviators.

How did they differ from everyday aviators? Well, General MacArthur wouldn’t wear just any pair of shades. His had a more distinctive teardrop frame shape, and featured the classic dark lenses with the golden frame. It was no wonder that with his cigarette hanging out of his mouth, his hat cocked on his head, his general’s stars on his shoulder, and of course, his dark shades over his eyes, MacArthur was a man to be reckoned with.

About the Author: Angie Stocklin is the co-founder of Sunglass Warehouse. Sunglass Warehouse carries the hottest trends in discount aviator sunglasses. For more information about Sunglass Warehouse please visit

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