The History of Gold Metal Aviator Eye Frames

Gold metal Aviators have long been a distinctly American eyewear style, associated with pilots soaring through the open sky and rugged outdoorsmen. The large, curved "tear-drop" rim shape covers a wide field of vision, and few other eye frames offer better protection when worn as UV coated sunglasses. Though Aviators have become an iconic and attractive eye frame, their shape is definitely a "form follows function" story with its roots in the United States military.

General Douglas MacArthur wearing Aviator Glasses returning to Philippines
General Douglas MacArthur was photographed wearing Aviators as he strode ashore during his triumphant return to the Philippines during WW2. 

As early as 1929, US Army Air Corps Colonel John Macready sought a replacement for pilot goggles, which would often fog up and freeze over at high altitudes, as well as offer little protection from severe sun glare common above the clouds. The colonel worked with a medical equipment manufacturer to create sunglasses which would solve these issues. The result? Large, wide-rimmed frames with an extended downward shape that not only allowed air to circulate about the pilots eyes, but also cut glare in all directions, including when the pilot needed to look downward at the controls. Plus they were much lighter than the standard goggles.

These original frames were simply called "Anti-Glare", and evolved during the 1930s from being made of plastic to the more well-known gold metal material familiar today. The temples also evolved from the straight-back "bayonet" shape designed to fit easily under the pilot's helmet, to coiled wrap around frames that would stay secure on the face of officers in the field. During World War 2, when General Douglas MacArthur famously returned to the Philippines, he heroically strode ashore wearing these frames. Suddenly, Aviators, as they came to be called, were the most desired eyewear among the American public.

Tom Cruise Gloria Steinem Joe Biden Jennifer Aniston wearing Aviator Sunglasses
Tom Cruise, Gloria Steinem, President Joe Biden and Jennifer Aniston have all chosen Aviators as signature fashion accessories.

To make Aviators even more attractive for public use, manufacturers offered them with "skull temples", which curve over the ear using the familiar "hockey stick" shape. The no-nonsense double bridge and sloping downward rim shape continued to be a major hit after the war, and on into the 1950s through today. Besides being worn by "Maverick" Tom Cruise in the 1986 hit film Top Gun, President Joe Biden is frequently seen wearing Aviators both on the campaign trail and while traveling. Over the decades, primarily due to their usage by courageous and heroic soldiers, pilots and astronauts, Aviators have become a symbol of bold leadership and fearlessness.

Focusers's Skull Temple Aviators are gold metal eye frames based on the iconic styles of the post-war era.

Our version – Skull Temple Aviators – are based on the classic design offered shortly after WW2 and into the 1950s and 60s. The upper bridge gradually curves and blends into the rims, contrasting with the smaller, lower straight horizontal bar. In true original Aviator form, the lenses are curved to provide maximum eye coverage.