Bob Dylan: an eyewear icon

Bob Dylan is one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century and his iconic style has been emulated by many. One particular accessory that stands out in Dylan’s rock 'n' roll ensemble is his signature pair of thick black sunglasses.

But which sunglasses did he actually wear?

In this blog post, we’ll explore Bob Dylan's sunglasses style to uncover the make and model of these counterculture-cool shades.


Greyscale image of Bob Dylan wearing thick black sunglasses frame

About the icon

Bob Dylan is a legendary singer songwriter who rose to fame in the 1960s. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century and has had an immense impact on popular culture, thanks to his profound lyrical content and unique style of composition. To this day, his musical influence can be seen in countless genres from rock and folk to rap and country.

At his peak, Bob Dylan was incredibly famous during the 1960s, with songs like “Blowin in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin'” becoming international hits. He was named one of the 100 most important American musicians of the 20th century by Rolling Stone magazine and received many awards, including 11 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award. In 2016, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his poetry and lyrics that have "created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

With such stratospheric fame during the mid-century, it's no surprise he became an idol amongst the rapidly growing counterculture. His bohemian attire, denim jeans, long hair and youthful vibrance made him a fashion symbol for young people of the era.

And for you, the eyewear enthusiast, his thick black sunglasses were a key component to his signature look. A perennial cool accessory which became part of his identity. Let's take a closer look...


Front facing view of Bob Dylan wearing chunky black sunglasses frame whilst smoking a cigarette

Bob Dylan's iconic black sunglasses

No item in Bob Dylan’s wardrobe stands out more than his thick-rimmed black sunglasses. These particular frames have become synonymous with his persona and are often considered part of his visual identity to this day.

The history of Dylan’s sunglasses remains a bit of a mystery. It’s not clear exactly when Dylan began wearing the black frames, but it is believed that he started wearing them in the late 1960s, possibly even as early as 1965.

Unlike other musicians who wore sunglasses to shield themselves from their fans and paparazzi photographers, Dylan seemed to wear his glasses purely for aesthetic purposes. The style was perfectly suited to his look - small and dark frames which provided just enough coverage to give him an air of mysteriousness, while still accentuating his facial features.


Close view of Bob Dylan wearing black shirt and dark sunglasses

What kind of sunglasses did Bob Dylan wear?

There are numerous theories about the specific brand and model of sunglasses that Bob Dylan wore during the 1960's. On closer inspection, we believe that they were likely to be an original pair of 1st generation, RayBan Caribbean made from black cellulose acetate.

Delving into the history of the company, RayBan were originally a subsidiary brand of the American optical company; Bausch & Lomb. To confuse matters, RayBan launched two very similiar looking sunglasses models in quick succession. Their hugely successful Wayfarer model in 1952 and then later, their Caribbean model in the early '60s.

Observing photos of Dylan's frame, the shape is indeed very similar. Like the Wayfarer, his Caribbean sunglasses have the same rectangular style featuring slightly tapered lenses with rounded lower corners. Similarly, the browline is slightly dropped in the middle and it has the same saddle nose bridge.

However, there are three key differences between the Dylan's Caribbean sunglasses and the original Wayfarer he's so widely thought to have worn.


The details

Illustration of RayBan Caribbean sunglasses rivets vs RayBan Wayfarer sunglasses rivets

#1 The rivets on the outermost edges of his frame are vertically orientated. This hardware is a type of staple rivet which unifies two pins that pass through the acetate to fasten the hinge to the inner-surface of the frame front. The triangular shaped exterior bezel is orientated vertically which is one of the key differences between the Caribbean and Wayfarer frame models.

If you look at the image below, you can see the staple rivet on the Caribbean frame are vertical whilst the rivet on the Wayfarer are horizontal.


Illustration of RayBan Caribbean sunglasses shape vs RayBan Wayfarer sunglasses shape

#2 The endpieces on Bob Dylan's sunglasses were cat-eyed and had no 'undercut. This means the outer edge of the frame simply swept upwards instead of sweeping in and back out. Looking at the photo below, you can see the difference between the Caribbean frame and the Wayfarer endpieces.


#3 The shape of Dylan's sunglasses were less tall than the Wayfarer and had more of a cat-eye shape to them. Comparing these two RayBan frames, the Caribbean is less boxy in stature and has a slimmer, more rectangular lens shape than the Wayfarer.



Could Bob Dylan's sunglasses be a different brand to RayBan?

Despite the evidence above, it's entirely plausible that his sunglasses weren't made by Bausch & Lomb at all.

During the '50s and '60s, full rimmed sunglasses like the Wayfarer were incredibly popular. Thanks to carefully well-executed product placements in movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany's or Rebel Without a Cause, these chunky style sunglasses were a ubiquitous fashion statement.

Subsequently, RayBan weren't the only optical brand who were producing this style of frame. Persol Ratti, Tart Optical, Universal Optical and Moscot each had their own interpretations of Wayfarer and Bob Dylan may well have worn different sunglasses from any of these large optical brands throughout his younger years.

Making matters even more difficult, eyewear manufacturers generally kept their branding discreet during this optical era. Devoid of any external markings or logos, it makes precise identification of Bob Dylan's sunglasses nearly impossible.

Original or 'vintage' RayBan sunglasses were only typically laser etched with a subtle marking 'B&L RAYBAN USA' on the interior surface of the temple arms. So if Dylan's frames were indeed RayBan, you'd need to see a very detailed picture of the inside to prove it was that particular brand of frame.


Bob Dylan sitting near a window wearing dark jacket and thick black sunglasses frame

How to get the Bob Dylan sunglasses look

In today's optical market, there are various iterations of Bob Dylan's iconic sunglasses. With the resurgence of similarly thick chunky acetate frames, we've selected some of the most stylish sunglasses that replicate their shape and simplicity. Check them out in the list below.


Three quarter view of black coloured RayBan Carribean sunglasses with green tinted lenses

RayBan Caribbean

After extensive online investigation, we believe that Bob Dylan wore a very early edition of the RayBan Caribbean frame. These cat-eye style sunglasses were launched in the early 1960's and feature the same vertically orientated staple rivets, tapering lenses and saddle style bridge. Fitted with quintessentially green RayBan lenses, these modern-day editions are the closest you'll get to the Bob Dylan sunglasses style. To grab a pair click here.


Three quarter view of Jacques Marie Mage Dealan sunglasses frame on marble surface

Jaques Marie Mage Dealan

Named after the man himself, these luxury sunglasses are handcrafted in Japan from indulgently thick Takiron acetate. Featuring the same tapering lenses and saddle style bridge, these effortlessly stylish shades embody the counterculture cool of a youthful Bob Dylan. If chunky sunglasses are what you're looking for, these frames are made to the highest standards using custom hardware and exquisite craftsmanship. This cult brand has an A-list Hollywood following being worn by the likes of: Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and most notably Naomi Watts in the Watcher can be seen wearing this exact frame.


Front facing view of RayBan Mega Wayfarer sunglasses frame with green tinted sun lenses

RayBan Mega Wafarer

These sunglasses are a boisterous upgrade to original Wayfarer design. With enlarged temples and thicker stature, the Mega Wayfarer is a brutish version of it's slender forebear. If you're looking to replicate the stealthy sunglasses worn by Bob Dylan, these are a bold '60s look, made from a gloss black acetate.


Classic RayBan Wayfarer in black

RayBan Classic Wayfarer

Easily the most iconic sunglasses design of all time, the original RayBay Wayfarer is a classic style. Almost identical to the slanting shades worn by Bob Dylan, this understated black frame is a tremendous slice of '60s styling. With its forward tilting pantoscopic angle and G16 green tinted lenses, these sunglasses are an all time classic.


Three quarter view of Persol 3272S sunglasses frame

Persol 3272S

For that mid-century style, these black Persol sunglasses are a vintage look you can rely on. The stealthy frame shape suits any face thanks to its rectangular lenses and thick black frame front. If you struggle with frame fit, Persol's patented Meflecto system allows the temple arms to easily flex, giving you a comfortable fit for day long comfort.


Three quarter view of Bob Dylan smoking a cigarette wearing sunglasses


Bob Dylan’s iconic sunglasses style has been replicated by eyewear manufactures in various iterations. With the resurgence of similarly thick chunky acetate frames, it is now easier than ever to get the Bob Dylan look.

Whether you choose a luxury pair from Jaques Marie Mage Dealan or an original RayBan Wayfarer, these timeless shades are sure to add authentic sophistication to any outfit. Hopefully you take some inspiration from one of music's greatest icons and make your own statement with some Bob Dylan-inspired sunglasses.

Hopefully you found this article helpful. Please check out our other eyewear icons. Thanks for stopping by.


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