The price of sunglasses can be pretty ridiculous nowadays, ranging anywhere from $150 to $750 for well-known brand names. And as many people know, most of those frames are just made by Luxottica – an Italian company that not only manufacturers ~80% of the major brands you see on the market, but also owns many of the retail outlets. I personally have no issue with the quality of their frames, but it’s true that their near-monopolistic position means that you’re likely paying very inflated prices.
If you’re OK with spending that much on sunglasses, consider getting some vintage Ray Bans. Before Ray Ban became just another name under the Luxottica label, they were American owned and made by New York’s Bausch & Lomb. Those vintage frames are still being bought and sold today by boutique eyewear stores and eBay sellers, and they’re as classic in shape as anything sold today, but have a “vintage cool” factor that you won’t find anywhere else.
Some models to consider:
- The Aviator: The most famous of Ray Ban’s frames, and the one that got Bausch & Lomb into sunglasses. Like with all the models listed here, there are a number of distinguishing marks on vintage pairs, but the most telling is whether or not you see a BL etched into the lenses (although, some vintage models dont have that BL etching, and you’ll have to search for other identifying marks).
- The Shooter: As the name suggests, the Shooter was originally designed for rifle shooters. They were popular in the ‘70s, and the o-ring you see at the bridge is meant to help strengthen the frames at that junction (important when bullet cartridges are flying back at your face).
- The Outdoorsman: Another early Ray Ban model, this one was introduced in 1939 as an offshoot of the company’s famous Aviators, but designed for hunting, shooting, and fishing enthusiasts. It’s distinguished by the “sweat bar” at the bridge and temple end pieces.
- The General: Originally released in the mid-80s for Ray Ban’s 50th anniversary, this model is one of the most coveted by collectors. The originals have a uniquely high gold content and a hollowed out font for the “50” at the lenses.
For a pair of vintage frames in good condition, you can expect to pay anywhere from ~$150 for your standard Aviators to $1,000 for The General. Unfortunately, if you have to wear prescription lenses (like me), then you may want to stick to newer models, as so much of what you’re paying for in vintage sunglasses are those original lenses. We have some suggestions in our sunglasses guide.