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Dropping Knowledge: The Ray-Ban Wayfarer

By the editors of MSN Living May 17, 2012 9:22PM

Jake Gallagher, GQ Magazine

It seems that every era has their iconic Wayfarer image: be it Bob Dylan recording in the studio, Tom Cruise dancing sans pants in Risky Business, or the Strokes wearing them on stage. To understand the Wayfarers undying appeal, we have to look back at the heyday of American design, the fifties.

In 1952, amidst a landscape of womb chairs, drop top hot rods, and mid-century modern houses, Raymond Stegeman, an eyewear designer for Ray-Ban, created the Wayfarer. The glasses' clean lines, subtle curves, and understated details reflected the thoughtful minimalism of mid-century U.S. design. In an era where aesthetics were paramount, the Wayfarer stood out as a pair of sunglasses that instantly embodied that "coolness" that everyone was after. Yet, it wasn't just the James Deans, John F. Kennedys, and Muhammad Alis of the world that flocked to Ray-Ban's designs. Everyone was picking up the shades to add a touch of accessible style to their summertime wardrobe.

As trends have faded in and out, the Wayfarer has maintained a constant presence. Look around. Sure, it'll disappear for a few years here and there, but the Wayfarer always comes back as strong as ever. While the original design is inarguably timeless, Ray-Ban has recently begun to offer a few updated models for the modern man, including a slimmed down "New Wayfarer" design, round and square versions, as well as a folding option. But don't worry, the original Wayfarer is always available, so you can continually keep it classic... Ya know, and get your Blues Brothers on.

Jake Gallagher writes the blog Wax-Wane. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Photo: Michael Olchs Archives/Getty Images/Ray-Ban

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