Ahhh, the ‘80s.
Depending on your tastes, it was a golden era for music, art, design, cars and most certainly sunglasses.
Experimental, outlandish and unforgettable, this decade of futurism explored the definition of what eyewear could be.
Whether you’re looking for a nostalgic investment or humorous fancy dress, this guide lists the best 80’s sunglasses styles and where you can buy them today.
Let’s dive in.
The best sunglasses of the 80s
Cyclops sunglasses (Also called Robot Sunglasses)
Easily the most futuristic sunglasses design during the ‘80s, cyclops sunglasses featured a mono-lens design for maximum facial coverage. Inspired by sci-fi films, these robotic-looking shades wrap closely around your head for full eye protection and maximum retro aesthetics. Cyclops shades are having a resurgence in both sports and avantgarde fashion.
First introduced by RayBan in 1952, Wayfarers became wildly popular in 80s thanks to Hollywood hit films such as The Blues Brothers, Risky Business and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The thick, black frames and bold design appealed to both men and women, and the glasses quickly became a fashion icon.
A great example of the classic RayBan Wayfarer is in the 1983 Hollywood hit ‘Risky Business’ starring a young actor by the name of Tom Cruise. Not only did the film rocket his career, but those square black sunglasses became the most sought after, perennial-cool shades amongst ‘80s youth culture.
However, the popularity of Wayfarers also had a downside. Because the sunglasses were so popular, they were often imitated by cheaper brands. As a result, many people ended up with poorly made knockoffs that fell apart quickly. In addition, the style of the glasses went out of fashion in the 1990s, leading to even more decline in sales.
Today, however, Wayfarers have made a strong comeback. The retro style is once again trendy, and the glasses are once again being worn by celebrities and everyday people alike. Whether you're looking for a fashion statement or just want to shield your eyes from the sun, Wayfarers are once again the sunglasses of choice.
In the 1980’s, Wayfarer sunglasses were a symbol of style, attitude, and power. And no brand was more associated with this image than Ray-Ban. Thanks to their association with celebrities and movie stars, Wayfarers became the must-have accessory for anyone who wanted to look cool.
Blues brothers sunglasses (Wayfarers)
In 1980, characters Jake and Elwood Blues catapulted the Wayfarer sunglasses style to fame in the cult-classic musical comedy ‘The Blues Brothers’. Worn throughout the entire film, both protagonists wore the original RayBan RB2140 classic Wayfarer in black acetate. If you prefer a classic look to your sunglasses, the Wayfarer shape is easily one of the most famous styles you can wear. The stealthy black frame with dark lenses can be worn by any face-shape and won’t clash with your clothes either.
Hitting the big screens in 1984, the inaugural Terminator film featured Austrian body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger and his edgy square sunglasses. With a utility style and sporty rimless construction, the ‘ANSI classic’ sunglasses were made by a company called Gargoyle whom ceased production on the 31st December 2022. This frame is a boxy style with sharp angular lenses, oozing in 80’s nostalgia which you can still grab on Amazon.
Stranger Things sunglasses
Bringing the best of ‘80s nostalgia, the sensationally popular series Stranger Things on Netflix has its fair share of sunglasses styling. Each of the 5 series is set amidst the 1980’s with nostalgic references throughout. ET meets the Goonies meets Ghost Busters… this binge worthy series is so damn good.
Lead characters, old and young, wear various sunglasses with quintessentially retro vibes. From wire rimmed Aviators to neon pop shades, check out these examples of the sunglasses worn in Stranger Things.
Billy Hargrove sunglasses
Few sunglasses styles have the timelessness and longevity of the wire rimmed Aviator classic. As worn by ‘bad boy’ Billy Hargrove, he gives The Hoff a serious run for his money in 'poolside nostalgia' Stranger Things series 3.
Steve Harrington sunglasses
The RayBan Wayfarer original strikes again in series 2 of Stranger Things. General nice guy and everyday underdog Steve Harrington wears the RayBan RB2140 classics channelling the same youthful, rebellious spirit of Tom Cruise in Risky Business. A subtle throwback with effortless style. That hair though...
Average Joe and the quinetessential 80’s dad, character Jim Hopper is the classic ‘chief of police’ for the haunted town of Hawkins Indiana. With his beige uniform, moustache and Red Wing boots, his wire-rimmed Aviator Outdoorsman sunglasses are the perfect ensemble for that all-time American cop look.
These utility-style shades were introduced in 1939 (modelled on the ever popular Aviator design) with large tear-drop lenses providing maximal eye coverage. You'll notice the faux leather brow-bar across the top of the bridge. Originally, this was meant to deter perspiration from interfering with your vision whilst hunting.
Making a late-entry to the Stranger Things line-up, character Max Hargrove joins the gang in season two of the Netflix knockout series. With her fiery ginger hair and blunt no-nonsense attitude, she wears these red Wayfarer sunglasses to great effect. Pop pastel colours like these were hugely popular amongst ‘80s sunglasses, especially white, blue or green frames.
The red edition worn by Max is currently unavailable, however the Havana edition (seen below) is a timeless look. If you prefer a more traditional style, these hazy amber and brown shades are eternally fashionable and bring a lovely warmth to your skin. The brown lenses provide a natural summery filter too!
Miami Vice sunglasses
NBC American crime drama Miami Vice ran from 1984 to 1989, featuring ground breaking police chases and action scenes television had never before seen. Undercover cops Rico and Sonny fought gang crime, chasing down bad guys in style using speed boats and exotic cars in the Art Deco district of Miami. Setting a new standard for police dramas, the unforgettable styling featured sockless lightweight pastel suits, rolled sleeves and numerous sunglasses made by Persol, Carrera and RayBan. Here are the three most famous styles worn in the series and where you can buy them.
What kind of sunglasses did Sonny Crockett wear?
Sonny Crockett, the main character in the TV show "Miami Vice," wore various sunglasses during the 80’s Miami crime drama including the Persol Ratti 69218, the Carrera 5512 and most famously, the classic RayBan Wayfarer.
In the 1980s, big hair and neon colours were all the rage. What better way to show off your style than with a pair of neon sunglasses? These colourful accessories were perfect for making a bold statement, and they came in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit any outfit. Whether you were rocking a pair of skinny jeans or a flowy dress, neon sunglasses were the perfect finishing touch. Of course, they were also great for hiding any evidence of late nights out on the town. So, whether you’re looking to make a fashion statement or simply shield your eyes from the sun, neon sunglasses were the way to go in the 1980s.
These sunglasses are as bright as they get… without adding lights. These neon 80’s sunglasses are a wildly colourful style for any retro outfit. If you like bold style sunglasses these vibrant shades are what you’ve been waiting for.
Why not take things a step further with these electronic LED sunglasses that light-up with the flick of a switch? For fancy dress or an 80’s themed party, these neon sunglasses will make you stand out from the crowd.
John Lennon round sunglasses
John Lennon was a fashion superstar during his reign with the Beatles. But his choice of eyewear made him an eyewear icon right up until his untimely demise in New York 1980. His eyewear was an inextricable part of his character, often wearing round wire glasses which became known as ‘Lennon glasses.’ Opting for colour tinted lenses, his round style sunglasses have been embraced by pop-culture, hippies and vintage fashion lovers alike. For a truly retro look, round wire sunglasses are one of the most popular styles to this day.
Triangular sunglasses were the height of fashion in the 80s. They were worn by everyone from movie stars to punk rockers. But what made these sunglasses so special? For starters, the triangle shape was unique and eye-catching. But more than that, the triangle frame was also incredibly flattering. It helped to accentuate the wearer's cheekbones and gave their face a more defined shape. In an era where big hair and bold makeup were the norm, the Triangle Frame Sunglasses were a chic and understated way to stand out from the crowd. Making their comeback to modern fashion, there's no denying that these sunglasses are lasting legacy of 80s fashion culture.
80’s sports sunglasses
Large sunglasses were the weapon of choice for athletes and movie stars alike - big, bold and unapologetically 80s. With their thick frames and mirrored lenses, sports sunglasses were the epitome of cool. With their functional design and large lens coverage, they keep the sun out of your eyes so you can perform at your best. Whether you’re hitting the slopes or the tennis court, these sunglasses are essential 80’s equipment. So if you're looking for a pair of shades to make you stand out from the crowd, look no further than these classic 80s sports sunglasses.
No 80’s inspired ski outfit would be complete without a pair of lurid tinted, mono-lens sunglasses. Sportswear nostalgia brand Pit Viper specialise in these ludicrous wraparound shades in all manner of colours and styles. For some seriously radical sunglasses, head over to their website for their extreme eyewear collections.
80’s cycling attire saw the introduction of flashy clothing, jerseys, shorts… and you guessed it, sunglasses. With improving eyewear technology, sunglasses became more tailored and honed for competitive cyclists. At the cutting edge of this technological advancement were Oakley who emerged as one of the leading makers of cycling sunglasses during the 80’s with their famous Eye Shades, Mumbos, Blades and Frogskins models. To this day, they offer all kinds of technical sports frames with lens options for varying light conditions. For that 80’s cyclist look, choose large mirrored lenses with a tight wraparound curvature.
For any tennis fan, the 80’s was the era known for for long hair, mullets, sweat bands and short shorts. Björn Borg regularly wore white coloured Aviators with curl sides that kept them firmly on his face during matches. Wither large lenses and sporty aesthetics, these Aviators were made in France by Bolle as a custom line for Borg during the late 70’s into the 80’s.
Meanwhile, Andre Agassi and John McEnroe famously wore large mono-lens sunglasses with high base-curve injected plastic lightweight frames. If you’re looking for that 80’s tennis court look, choose large mirrored lenses with a tight wraparound curvature. Blenders eyewear offer all kinds of frames and sun lenses for different sports and light conditions.
For cyclists and runners, large lens coverage is crucial for long term visual focus. On bright sunny days, double exposure from overhead and reflected sunlight taxes your eyes making it difficult to focus. Closely fitted sunglasses with polarised lenses reduce visual fatigue for a smoother visual experience. During the 80’s, strongly curved mono lens sunglasses helped reduce light leak by minimising gaps for superior performance. Head over to Blenders eyewear to see their range of 80’s sports sunglasses.
Also known as glacier goggles, glacier shades are characterised by their functional design, featuring large dark lenses and protective side shields. Originally designed a hundred years prior in 1888, the design was intended for mountaineers at high altitude exposure. With two separate lenses and leather side guards, these sunglasses kept light-leak to an absolute minimum. For the ultimate glacier shades look, we suggest the Julbo Cham sunglasses seen below.
Oversized mirrored sunglasses
Oversized, mirrored sunglasses that covered half your face, they blurred the lines between sports and recreational sunglasses. Worn by celebrities and everyday people alike, these sunglasses were the must-have accessory of the 1980s. Whether you were hitting the beach or hitting the town, you didn't feel fully dressed unless you were rocking a pair of these bad boys. And while they may have fallen out of fashion in recent years, there's no denying the impact they had on 80s culture. With their unique blend of style and function, mirrored sunglasses will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Notorious B.I.G sunglasses
For hip hop fans, the 1980’s paved way for some the genre’s biggest stars. Most notably, the legendary flow and innovative rhymes of Christopher Wallace; otherwise known as the Notorious B.I.G or Biggie Smalls. With his rise to fame in his late teens, Biggie splashed his cash on fashionable garments, accessories and sunglasses as part of his new-found wealth. Famously, we wore Versace sunglasses in several of his aspirational music videos which have become iconic amongst the 80’s hip hop scene. The two most prominent sunglasses were the Versace 424’s and Versace Medusa models which he wore in both his ‘One more chance’ and ‘Hypnotise’ music videos.
Few sunglasses are more iconic than the Oakley Frogskins. First released in 1985, the Frogskins were Oakley’s first recreational fashion sunglasses design for non-sporting use. With their square nylon material frames and bright colours, Frogskins fast became Oakley’s answer to the ever-popular RayBan Wayfarer during the 80’s. But it wasn't just their style that made them so popular. The Frogskins were also known for their durability and comfort. They could withstand ANYTHING - whether you were skiing, biking, or just hanging out at the beach. And because they were so comfortable, you could wear them all day without ever getting a headache. Having been reworked several times over the past 30 years, you can purchase a modern pair of Frogskins here.
White sunglasses became popular in 1980s, due to rockers and music stars like Joan Jett and the late Kurt Cobain. Although white rimmed frames are a stark contrast to the dark lenses, they have a vintage aesthetic that’s making a resurgence amongst today’s popular fashion. Previously known as Cobain shades, their new nickname is Clout Goggles as coined by rapper Denzel Curry. Today, white frame sunglasses are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. So whether you're channelling your inner rock star or just looking for a great way to keep your eyes safe, grab a pair of these white frame sunglasses and enjoy the ride.
Shutter shades were all the rage in the 1980s. These stylish sunglasses featured a series of overlapping metal or plastic louvers that allowed people to see out while partially shielding their eyes from the sun. But how did these shades work? The louvers acted as a series of mini blinds, blocking out direct sunlight but still allowing indirect light to enter the eye. This made for a more comfortable viewing experience, and it also helped to reduce glare. Today, shutter shades are often seen as a retro fashion accessory, but in their heyday, they were at the forefront of 80’s fashion.
Worn by movie stars and music icons, Clubmaster sunglasses became synonymous with 1980s culture. They were a flattering look, mixing metal and acetate for a combination style of frame never before seen. Originally, it was Ronsir who first made this new and interesting sunglasses shape in 1947 which was quickly adopted and adapted by other manufacturers at the time. Most famously, RayBan released their version named the Clubmaster which has become ubiquitous with this frame style ever since. Characteristically, Clubmasters have a top-heavy look, featuring acetate sections in the upper half of the frame. This detail draws attention to the most expressive part of your face, your eyebrows, hence their original name; browline sunglasses.
There's something about a pair of original RayBan Aviators that just oozes cool. Whether you're channelling your inner Tom Cruise in Top Gun or taking style cues from the Beatles, aviator sunglasses have a timeless appeal. And while they may be associated with the 1980s, aviators actually date back to the early 1900s when they were designed for pilots to protect their eyes from the harsh glare of the sun at high altitudes. Today, aviators are more popular than ever and can be seen on everyone from A-list celebrities to everyday fashionistas. Whether you're looking for a classic pair of aviators or something with a modern twist, you really can’t go wrong with this timeless sunglass style.
Are 80s glasses coming back?
‘80s style sunglasses such as the Aviator, Clubmaster and Wayfarer are considered very popular styles in today’s fashion. Triggered by films and pop culture, classic sunglasses designs such as these have come in and out of fashion since the mid-century. A great example are very popular RayBan Wayfarers which featured in multiple ‘80s films such as The Blues Brothers, Risky Business and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Despite it’s declining sales in the 1990’s they are now once again one of the most popular sunglasses styles today.
How to nail the 80s sunglasses trend?
Choosing ‘80s style sunglasses, it’s best to choose a frame to suit your face shape. A good rule of thumb is to contrast your face shape with your style of sunglasses. For example, square faces tend to suit rounded frames. Meanwhile, round faces tend to suit square frames.
Round faces will want to go for glasses with more angles, while squarer faces can get away with a rounder pair. Once you've found the perfect frame, it's time to have some fun with colour. Go for a bright neon shade or a vintage tortoiseshell acetate.
How do you know your face shape?
The easiest way to know your face shape is to draw around your face and hairline using a printed self-portrait photograph or using your phone. The basic overall shape of your face should then become clear. Observe your forehead, cheekbones, and jawline. If they're all roughly the same width, then you likely have a round face. If your jawline is narrower than your cheekbones, then you probably have an oval face. And if your forehead is the widest part of your face, with your cheekbones and jaw tapering down from there, then you likely have a heart-shaped face. Once you've determined your face shape, you can start shopping for sunglasses that will flatter your features.
To help you determine your face shape, we’ve collated some of the best apps and websites in the table below.
My Face Shape Meter
Find Your Face Shape
Measure Your Face Instantly
Golden Ratio Face
|Face Shape Detector
What sunglasses were popular in the 1980s?
The 80s were a time of big hair, bright colours, and bold fashion choices. And when it came to sunglasses, bigger was definitely better. Oversized frames were all the rage, whether they were round, square, or cat-eye. From Madonna to Michael Jackson, everyone was rocking this trend.
Are Aviators 70s or 80s?
The aviator style was popularized in the 1970s but their growth in popularity spanned into the 1980s. The Aviator style is characterized by its large teardrop lenses and metal wire frame. Aviators were originally designed for WWII fighter pilots, but the style can be worn by anyone who likes large but lightweight sunglasses.
Were aviators popular in the 80s?
Aviator sunglasses were originally developed during World War Two for fighter pilots but surged in popularity during the 1980’s due to films such as the original “Top Gun”, "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles.". Measuring popularity is tricky, however Aviators were arguably popular amongst a certain subset of the population in the 1980s.
What kind of glasses did Run DMC wear?
Run DMC, a famous hip hop group from the 1980s, was known for their signature style. Core artist and legendary rapper Darryl McDaniels wore various spectacles and sunglasses including the Cazal 607’s. This ensemble included wearing thick gold chains and oversized frames with a squared off bottom. Incidentally, McDaniels' adornment of these frames is what spurred the popularity of Cazal glasses amongst the hip hop community. To this day, rappers such as JayZ occasionally wears the brand's thick rimmed glasses.
Our favourite 80’s sunglasses adverts
This blog wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of our favourite 80’s style sunglasses adverts. Because back then, print was one of the few visual methods optical brands could promote their newest frames.
Oakley, Persol and RayBan had some of the best we could find. So, if you’re just into retro copywriting or fancy a trip down memory lane, we’ve assembled some of the best and most compelling adverts from the heyday of print.
1980's magazine advert featuring a female model wearing LA Eyeworks sunglasses | Image source: Pinterest
1977 print advert for Polaroid sunglasses | Image source: Pinterest
Bolle 1980's Björn Borg Wimbledon sunglasses print advert | Image source: Pinterest
Oakley advertisement for their new range of 'Backlight Frogskins' sunglasses | Image source: Pinterest
1980's Persol magazine advertisement for their 853 Carol sunglasses frame | Image source: Pinterest
Retro '80s sunglasses advertisement for Oakley Eyeshades sunglasses range | Image source: Pinterest
80's Bausch and Lomb poster advert for the Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses frame range | Image source: Pinterest
Californian newspaper advertisement for Pacific Sunwear promoting their range of Oakley sunglasses frames | Image source: Pinterest
Local newspaper advertisement for Ray Ban sunglasses by Bausch and Lome in Rochester New York 1968 | Image source: Pinterest
80's sunglasses magazine advertisement by Cool Ray for their Silver Clouds Aviator sunglasses promotion | Image source: Pinterest
Ray Ban poster for the 1985 Indianapolis 500 featuring racing driver Danny Sullivan wearing Aviator mirror sunglasses frame | Image source: Pinterest
'80s sunglasses PlayBoy eyewear poster advertisement for their lightweight Optyl sunglasses range | Image source: Pinterest
Ray Ban print advert for the 1984 Olympic Games | Image source: Pinterest
Oakley advertisement for their new '90s range of Frogskins sunglasses | Image source: Pinterest
'80s Bausch and Lomb poster advertisement for the RayBan Aviator sunglasses range | Image source: Pinterest
1980 magazine advert for Oakley Blade cycling sunglasses | Image source: Pinterest
Print advertisement for the release of RayBan Naturals during the '80s | Image source: Pinterest
1989 magazine advert for Oakley Razor Blades sunglasses | Image source: Pinterest
Retro '80s print advertisement for Swatch | Image source: Pinterest
Hopefully you found this article interesting.
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