Celebrate Sunglasses

From retro to glam, sunglasses (made with plastics!) have always made a statement. Explore iconic sunglass styles and see how they help protect our eyes.

Ever since sunglasses made with plastics became widely available in the 30s, they’ve been helping glamorous Hollywood movie stars, legendary sports figures, fashion models, U.S. Presidents, and some of us lesser-known people make a personal statement.

Wayfarer, aviator, cat eyes—regardless your favorite sunglass style, this fashion statement accessory also has some major safety benefits that help protect your eyes, thanks to the versatility of plastics.

See how plastics have brought to life some memorable moments in U.S. sunglass history… and continue to push boundaries today.

Woman with cat eye sunglasses

With a long history adorning the faces of models and movie stars, this sunglass style is a perennially popular way to add a touch of glamour to an evening out or summertime scene.

Safety: Shatter resistance

It’s not the best idea to place breakable glass lenses close to your eyeballs. So even if your highest-impact activity is relaxing on the beach or by a pool, you’ll still be glad to know your sunglass lenses are likely made with shatter-resistant plastics. Many manufacturers make sunglass lenses with high-performance plastics that are both tough and clear—such as polycarbonate plastics, the material that also is used to make “bullet resistant glass.”

Browline sunglasses

A wildly popular eyeglass style worn by everyone from scholars to counterculture icons in the 50s and 60s, this sunglass style took the nation by storm in the 80s and is still popular for rocking a retro look with a healthy dash of smarts.

Safety: UV protection

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays may be invisible, but they can cause serious damage to your eyes if you spend a lot of time outdoors without proper eye protection. Plastic sunglass lenses with special protective coatings can help reduce your UV exposure without compromising your sight. And since plastics are easily moldable, the frames and lenses can be made oversized or wrap around your eyes and face for extra sun protection.

Bonus: polycarbonate lenses can block more than 99 percent UV rays… without the need for special coating.

In addition, sunglasses with UV protection may help prevent cataracts. More than 20 million people are blind from cataracts and an additional million are visually impaired from them.

Oversized sunglasses on woman

A fabulous way to make an oversized fashion statement, for years these sunglasses graced the faces of pop icons and Hollywood celebrities. Today they still suggest a bit of intrigue and complement multiple hairstyles and outfits.

Safety: Glare reduction

If you spend a lot of time on the water, the snow, or even the open road, you know that glare can be a big problem—potentially leading to compromised vision that can cause accidents. Glare leads to thousands of car accidents every year in the U.S., according to government safety experts. That’s one reason that technicians developed “polarized” plastic lenses with a virtually invisible, built-in filter that helps reduce glare to make images sharper and clearer.

Aviator sunglasses on man

You don’t need to pilot a fighter jet to wear a pair of these. This style took off as a fashionable way to exude cool while shielding your eyes on long drives. Their stylish practicality makes them endurably popular.

Safety: Keeping them in place

Keeping sunglasses firmly affixed to your head can prevent their loss and even potentially dangerous situations, especially when driving or playing sports, when they could become dislodged. (Extreme example: an astronaut wearing sunglasses under a space helmet cannot simply reach in and adjust them.) So they need to effectively grip your head. Lightweight, bendable plastic frames work together with the sunglass springs to provide just the right amount of pressure to help keep them in place… without causing pain.

At least one sunglass maker is taking this even further, using plastics and a 3-D printer to custom design sunglasses for your individual head. The manufacturer says each pair weighs the same as just five gummy bears, thanks to super-lightweight plastics.

Wayfarer sunglasses on man

A big hit in the 50s, these sunglasses were revived in the 80s by rock stars, actors, and actresses. The style resurged again at the turn of the century by people looking to add a bit of timeless vintage flair.

Style or Safety? Yes.

When choosing your sunglasses, you may well think more about the style than their safety benefits. That’s OK. Plastics have you covered by helping protect your eyes while projecting your sense of style. That’s quite a statement.

  • Eye “glasses”? Nah. Plastics help protect and improve our vision

    Why do we call them glasses? From corrective lenses to sports goggles, tough plastics are widely used in shatter resistant lenses and frames that help protect our sight.

    Read More
  • From Burlap to Bikinis: A Women’s Swimwear Timeline

    To go with your sunglasses: Modern plastic fabrics have helped make swimsuits more versatile, durable, and flattering, inspiring a number of iconic fashion trends along the way.

    Read More
  • Polycarbonate: Quite the Daredevil

    Professor Plastics: “Polycarbonate plastic seems destined for rather epic adventures.” Including those you take wearing your plastic sunglasses.

    Read More
  • Wait … That’s Plastic? (Sports Edition)

    World-class sports require world-class gear, including eyewear. Amateur or pro, you may be surprised how much you likely rely on a plethora of plastics to do your best.

    Read More
  • Innovations in Plastics Contribute to Safety and Sustainability

    National Safety Month is dedicated to reducing preventable injuries and death. See how plastics can make a difference.

    Read More
  • Timeline: Clothing, Fashion, and Plastics Through the Decades

    Plastic-based fabrics are all the rage these days. Learn how clothing, fabrics, and accessories made with plastics have evolved over the decades.

    Read More