The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of cat eye glasses and many other flashy styles that had never before been seen on Earth. The cat eye frames shape lends itself to many different fashion statements, unlike the rather sober round or oval designs that had appeared through most of history before then. Overwhelmingly worn by women during the period, vintage cat eye glasses could appear festive, playful, or sophisticated, depending on circumstances and other fashion choices. For these reasons, vintage eyeglasses of this kind are immensely popular today, too.
Ray-Ban is a famous brand name, which belongs to the eyeglasses colossus Bausch & Lomb. The brand originated during the interwar period of the 1930s, when the focus was on producing sunglasses for fighter pilots. After World War II, Ray-Ban turned to stylish vintage eyeglasses instead, and made many sunglasses with the characteristic cat eye glasses outline.
Indeed, the first Ray-Ban sunglasses to appear after the war were named “Fun Glasses”, and though they didn't have the full cat eye shape, they were tilted up at the outer corners. This was in 1948, so the era of cat's eye glasses was clearly advancing fast in the postwar world. Fun Glasses were described as the “gayest thing in sun glasses” at a time when the word “gay” had no implications beyond “festive and happy”. These brightly colored frames contrasted with the somber hues that wartime glasses had naturally sported.
This is not to say that the line of more “serious” sunglasses was discontinued. Plain (though stylish) black-framed sunglasses were also manufactured by Ray-Ban, as they are to this day. General Douglas MacArthur was a fan of Ray-Bans and appears in many photographs wearing the glasses and smoking his well known corn cob pipe.
Cats eye glasses in profusion from Ray-Ban
One of the most famous vintage cat eye glasses designs at the time bearing the Ray-Ban stamp was the Candy Striper. Though it has faded into obscurity, this model once exemplified the whole positive, bubbly culture of the time and the sense of fun and chic that many designs simultaneously expressed. Though the construction was not as sophisticated as later glasses of this general type, the Candy Striper started the age of cat eye glasses with a bang.
The Candy Striper is an ingenious design that makes use of the same principle as artistic scratchboard to produce a vivid pattern. The main part of the glasses – the two eyerims and the bridge, which form a single seamless unit – are layered together out of alternating slices of red and white plastic. This gives the edges a series of fine red and white stripes, with red on both the outside and inside faces of the eyerims.
If this were the only decoration, the vintage glasses would be unremarkable. However, the top edge was cut away at a beveled angle to reveal alternating bands of red and white in a scalloped shape. Thus, the “brows” of these cats eye glasses are a rippling, brilliant swath of red and white curves and points. The principle is simple, but the effects are very striking.
The temples are also wide, but made out of black plastic rather than red and white. The Candy Striper was an amazingly flamboyant, eye-catching design for its day, and it still evokes all the most exciting parts of the time when cat's eye glasses were a peacock-bright break with the past and the harbingers of a future that believed in success and progress.