How the Ray-Ban Wayfarer became the irrepressible ‘comeback kid’

If there’s one sartorial item that has represented the most emphatic shorthand for ‘style’ since its introduction in the 1950s, it is surely the Ray-Ban Wayfarer. In contrast to the utilitarian origins of its similarly iconic big brother, the Aviator, the Wayfarer was conceived to be a catwalk-worthy classic from day one – and one could scarcely accuse it of having disappointed.

However, for all of the timeless design language that the Ray-Ban Wayfarer epitomises, these legendary sunglasses have enjoyed a somewhat up-and-down history in which their long-term destiny occasionally seemed far from assured.

From a ‘50s revelation to an ‘80s staple

It may have been the dazzlingly simple motif that Wayfarers represented – consisting of lenses mounted in rounded plastic frames, flared at the top outside edges – that established the foundation for their later coveted status, but it took a man called James Dean to cement it.

The charismatic young actor may have already tragically passed away in a car accident by the time of the release of Rebel Without a Cause in October 1955, but his portrayal of socially estranged and troubled teenager Jim Stark captured imaginations – as did his effortlessly cool choice of eyewear.

The dash cut by Dean in Wayfarers set the tone for the full-blown counterculture revolutions of the 1960s, when the likes of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Muhammad Ali all donned them. By now, no shortage of imitations were hitting the market, but none of them quite stole Wayfarers’ cool.

In fact, it took the Wayfarer to lose its own cool, as the line’s sales momentum eventually slowed down to the point of barely 20,000 pairs being sold a year at the onset of the 1980s. Some well-timed product placements soon changed that, though, and before long, such new cultural icons as  George Michael, Madonna and Jack Nicholson were demonstrating Wayfarers’ renewed relevance.

It’s clear that Wayfarers are now firmly here to stay

Even the emergence of another relative fallow period for the Wayfarer, in the ‘90s, was not enough to keep such an enduring icon down forever. Sure enough, the vintage frames favoured by such ‘00s stars as Chloë Sevigny and Mary-Kate Olsen helped to usher the legendary sunglasses back into fashion once more in the 21st century.

As we enter the 2020s, the Ray-Ban Wayfarer has installed itself as a permanent fixture among many a fashionista’s eyewear staples. This trend has been aided by the introduction of the New Wayfarer, which retains the original’s immediately recognisable shape, while representing a tasteful update with its smaller frame and slightly softer eye shape.

The fine news for all things Wayfarer doesn’t stop there, though; here at IC Clothing, we’re currently offering highly tempting discounts on the New Wayfarer, demonstrating that classic style doesn’t have to be beyond your means.

Purchase your favourites from our well-stocked selection of Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses today, and you’ll be joining quite the lineage of distinguished wearers, while also setting out your own bold style sensibility for the new decade.