Sunglasses Trends Through the Decades

September 26, 2017

Sunglasses Trends Through the Decades



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 are re-appearing in fresh and exciting ways. Both men’s sunglasses and women’s sunglasses.

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 is still turning heads. Just like our Triton sunglasses, Designed by American optical designer Raymond Stegeman, Wayfarers used the new 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. Just 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 find plenty of Browline styles for women in our Tabulae sunglasses store. Be sure to check out our pop up shows



Fashion-forward icons of the 1960s brought all kinds of new styles to the mainstream, including square and 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 across the nation. Cat-eye frames were popular for both sunglasses and eye glasses.


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 the reason, 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 the Fall 2017 collection.

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


The fashion pendulum swung back to small sunglasses in the 1990s, and wire frames and colored lenses were other important trends. 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 the early 200s.

Current Trends

With a healthy long view of the sunglasses trends in 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.

For example, this year’s browline sunglasses look less heavy and severe than the browlines of the 1950s. And many of the cat-eye frames maintain the upward peak a the temples, but 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 business suits. Be sure to look into the most popular sunglasses styles as well as how to take care of your sunglasses.

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