Miami Vice was the American crime drama that redefined the experience, thrill and style of colour television.
Aired between 1984 to 1989, it was one of the most influential and successful TV series of its decade. Featuring ground breaking car chases and epic gun fights, this exhilarating series of crime-fighting set a new standard for police dramas.
In a revolutionary mix of new wave music, stereophonic sound, gripping action scenes and trend setting men’s fashion, the NBC success-show attracted a cult following during its 112-episode, 5-year stint. Undercover police protagonists, Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and Rico Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) became icons of ‘80s fashion, popularising pastel suits, slip-on sockless shoes, stubble facial hair and of course, some truly spectacular sunglasses.
In homage to Sonny and Rico’s style, this blog post highlights the specific sunglasses frames worn in Miami Vice and where you can buy them.
What kind of sunglasses did Sonny Crockett wear in Miami Vice?
Sonny Crockett wore three different sunglasses frames in Miami Vice including black Carrera 5512s, tortoise Ray-Ban RB2140 Wayfarers and black Persol Ratti 69218s. These were the most prominent sunglasses frames worn by Sonny during the 5 years of Miami Vice from 1984 to 1989.
The top three Sunny Crockett sunglasses frames
Miami Vice, Season 1, Episode 1 - Carrera 5512
In the pilot episode of Miami Vice, undercover detective Sonny Crockett wears a pair of oversized Carrera 5512 sports sunglasses. Injection moulded from matte black acetate, the Aviator style frame features contrastingly thin, silver metal temple arms which were externally labelled with Carrera logo branding. Distinctively, Crockett’s frame is fitted with large brown tinted sun lenses. The production team modified the frame to hide the Carrera logos for this inaugural episode which aired on the 16th of September 1984; titled ‘Brother’s Keeper.’ It was the first and last time that Crockett wore these sunglasses in the Miami Vice series. In future episodes, it was Crockett’s undercover partner Rico Tubbs who then wore the Carrera shades.
Originally made in Austria, Carrera 5512 sunglasses are no longer in production. However, deadstock and pre-owned models are still available online via vintage frame dealers. Having extensively researched these iconic Miami Vice sunglasses, it seems the most common models are entirely black, both on the temple and on the frame front, fitted with grey gradient lenses.
Miami Vice, Season’s 1, 2, 4 & 5– Tortoise Ray-Ban Wayfarer
After episode 1 of Miami Vice, Sonny Crockett transitioned from the Carrera 5512 sunglasses to his more most consistent and iconic tortoise acetate RB5022 Ray-Ban Wayfarers fitted with green tinted G-15 sun lenses. Smaller than the previous Aviator sports sunglasses, he wore the stylish Wayfarer frame for the rest of the first and second seasons of Miami Vice.
In conjunction with Miami Vice, the Ray-Ban Wayfarer was having a resurgence in popularity thanks to popular films such as the 1980 ‘Blues Brothers’ 1983 ‘Risky Business’ featuring Tom Cruise. In both of these films, lead characters wore these iconic sunglasses which rejuvenated sales amongst ‘80s youth culture.
Unlike Tom Cruise, Don Johnson’s sunglasses were tortoise shell acetate instead of black. To this day, tortoise acetate remains one of the most popular acetate patterns due to the subtle and warming colours of brown, amber and black.
Miami Vice, Season 3 – Persol Ratti 69218
Briefly departing from the Ray-Ban Wayfarer, Sonny Crockett wore a black pair of Italian-made Persol Ratti 69218 sunglasses during season 3. In the episode ‘When Irish Eyes are Crying’ there’s a distinct difference between this frame and the Wayfarer. It has a much more angular frame front with straighter lines and the temples (arms) are much thicker too.
At the time, Persol Ratti was the original company name as per founder Giuseppe Ratti’s surname. This is why any Persol Ratti frames are considered vintage having changed to just Persol in 1995 when the company was acquired. Observing the 69218 sunglasses more closely, the sunglasses feature a characterising double articulation point on the temples. This was actually one of the world’s first spring-hinge mechanisms which are widely imitated and used in eyewear manufacture today. Patented by Persol in the 1930’s, the ‘Meflecto’ system allowed the temples to slightly bend and adapt to the wearer’s head for a more comfortable fit. A subtle but effective detail that could easily go unnoticed in the fast-action scenes of Miami Vice.
A sectional interior view of the ‘Meflecto’ flexible stem system patented by Persol during the 1930’s | Image credit: Persol
The black and white drawing above demonstrates the efficacy of the ‘Meflecto' system by Persol. Using two or three metal pins within the frame’s temple allowed it to articulate outwards to eliminate pressure points on the wearer’s head. For those with large heads, this innovative system alleviated ‘pinching’ which could lead to headaches and discomfort whilst wearing Persol sunglasses. ‘Meflecto’ broadened the frame’s capacity to accommodate a larger variety of head sizes, thus making it easier to sell and to wear.
When were Ray-Ban Wayfarers manufactured?
In 1952, Ray-Ban (a sub-brand of Bausch & Lomb) introduced the Wayfarer sunglasses frame. Compared with Ray-Ban's existing metal styles such as the Aviator and Shooter, the revolutionary acetate Wayfarer frame marked a significant departure.
During the 1970s, sales declined primarily due to knockoffs and other re-popularised styles, such as the Aviator and mirrored aviators. But it was during the ‘80s that some essential Wayfarer product placements led to an increase in sales. ‘Risky Business’, ‘The Blues Brothers’ and of course, this ground breaking American crime drama set in the Art Deco district of Miami. A seminal cop show that set the tone for menswear and eyewear for decades to come.Hopefully you found this article helpful. Please check out our other eyewear icons. Thanks for stopping by.