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The Wayfarer Look

Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Joe Mantegna, July/August 2011

If you name a pair of sunglasses Wayfarer, it is bound to have some traveling to do. This classic frame has been in and out of style for almost 60 years and we’re happy to see it making a current comeback—both as the original and with a slew of looks inspired by it.

It was 1952 when the renowned designer Raymond Stegeman first penned the Wayfarer for Ray-Ban, melding trapezoidal frames that tilted forward with a bit of menace and a jutting nose bridge that looked like it came off the grill work of a heavily finned car of the era. Molded in zylonite—the cellulose acetate plastic that was high-tech stuff at the time—the Wayfarer came off sturdy and masculine with its formidable arms stretching out along the temple. The nose pads, molded as they were into the frame itself, were much more comfortable than the free-floating ones on wire-rimmed glasses. The thick frames also did their job better: making sure the lenses didn’t pop out.

And the look chased wire-rims off the beach. In the standard black, the Wayfarer was threatening enough for generations of rebels, from James Dean to Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison to the Blues Brothers. What’s more the design proved classic enough to stand up to the numerous reformulations that would see Wayfarer-inspired frames in different colors and lines pulling off disparate looks. Consider the preppy look of Jack Kennedy in his tortoise shell glasses or the forever-chic Audrey Hepburn peering over slightly rounded versions of the frames. The cool elegance of Steve McQueen glasses are also a variation on the style. Even the “Miami Vice” look got a little boost from glasses that originated from the Wayfarer design.

Now, after a long hiatus Wayfarer-inspired looks once again enjoy their place in the sun. Pictured at top, Ray-Ban makes a statement on its own design with a squarer frame and a soft gray color. The signature hinges of the second frames from the top are the giveaway that Persol has done this take on the look with rounded eyes in the classic black. Karl Lagerfeld follows the basic form (third from top), but makes the look his own with the choice of tortoise frames and rose-colored lenses. The fourth and fifth frames are Calvin Klein’s interpretations, the first walnut and the second in green Havana. Jil Sander recreated the classic frame shape, at bottom, this time in tortoise.

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Comments   2 comment(s)

Bobby Worley — Aiken, SC, USA,  —  September 20, 2011 1:47pm ET

I just replaced my 17 year old Wayfarers with a new pair of Wayfarers. It's the only style I like.


Blind Toby September 22, 2011 3:16am ET

me too, been wearing them for just over 25 years


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