Sunglasses Trends Through the Decades

Sunglasses Trends Through the Decades

Sep 29th 2020

Have sunglasses trends changed through the decades? Absolutely! And the many different trends have given us a treasure trove of options that have been recycled and refined over the years. You’ll see in this year’s fall collection that many older sunglasses trends for both men’s sunglasses and women’s sunglasses are reappearing in fresh and exciting ways.

Let’s take a look at sunglasses trends through the decades to discover the roots of some of today’s most stylish pairs.


Making its striking debut in the 1950s, the Wayfarer style still turns heads today - check out our Triton sunglasses for an example. Designed by American optical designer Raymond Stegeman, Wayfarers used the cutting-edge plastic molding technology that was transforming everything from children’s toys to aerospace development.

We also owe the 1950s our gratitude for bringing us browline sunglasses, like our Vili with the bar. James Dean, Malcolm X, and other mid-century icons put this style on the map. Traditionally used only in sunglasses for men, you’ll now find plenty of browline styles for women in our Tabulae sunglasses store, as well as at our pop up shows.


Fashion-forward icons of the 1960s brought all kinds of new styles into the mainstream, including square lenses, round lenses, and cat eyes.

French singer Francoise Hardy started a long-lasting trend with her square sunglasses, and we can’t forget John Lennon’s famous round sunglasses. Additionally, Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor fueled the cat-eye trend that swept the nation. Cat-eye frames were popular options for both sunglasses and eyeglasses.


Oversized glasses burst onto the fashion scene in the 1970s, as former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis made them her go-to accessory. She allegedly wore them because she faced so many flashbulbs from the paparazzi. Whatever her motivation, the style caught on! Elton John was another celebrity of the era who often wore oversized sunglasses, especially as part of his Captain Fantastic act.


After the release of Top Gun in the 1980s, aviator sunglasses experienced a 40 percent jump in sales! Prior to Tom Cruise’s big aviator sunglasses debut, these glasses were considered to be simply pilot’s garb, but they’ve been mainstream ever since, and you’ll find an expansive collection of aviators in our Fall 2017 collection.

Big plastic glasses were another top trend in the 1980s. Continuing the oversized trend of the 1970s, these big plastic sunglasses were colorful, glossy, and even outfit-coordinated. Princess Diana was a fan of big plastic sunglasses, and helped spread the trend internationally.


The fashion pendulum swung back to small sunglasses in the 1990s, and wire frames and colored lenses were other important trends of this period. The small round shades of the 1960s made a return to the fashion front, and mirrored lenses often accompanied the small frames.

After the splashy sunglasses trends of the 1980s, sunglasses of the 1990s seemed minimalist. Their shapes were simple and sleek, and black and brown were popular colors.


Big sunglasses came back in the early 2000s, with futuristic styles like the shield frame showing up on big names like Beyonce, Bono, and Kim Kardashian. Other oversized styles like the “bug eyes” and large square frames came back with a vengeance.

Rhinestones, brightly-colored frames, and tinting were also big trends in sunglasses of the early 2000s.

Current Trends

With a healthy long view of the sunglasses trends of recent decades, it’s easier to see where fashion is headed now.

Fashionable sunglasses this year take their cues from many of the trends of the past, but most of these styles have been updated in sleek and subtle ways, especially when it comes to polarized sunglasses. Look into the differences between polarized and non-polarized sunglasses, as well as the benefits of wearing a pair of polarized sunglasses.

This year’s browline sunglasses look less heavy and severe than those of the 1950s, and while many of the cat-eye frames maintain the upward peak at the temples, the angles are less dramatic and more professional.

Aviators are as stylish today as they were in the 1980s, but they have less of a pop culture influence and more of a sporty, classic bent. You can also pick up an updated pair of Wayfarers, those classic sunglasses from the 1950s. You’ll be impressed with today’s Wayfarers - they look as stylish on the beach as they do with a business suit.

Be sure to look into the most popular sunglasses styles, and regardless of which look works best for you, remember that it's important to know how to take care of your sunglasses.

Contact Tabulae to try on the latest styles, or to buy sunglasses online. We can help you find just the right pair for your own personal style and budget!