Quick—how many sunglasses styles can you name? If you only came up with two, we bet they’re the cat eye and the aviator. We have nothing against the feline-inspired frames of the 60s, but we’re all pilots here. When it’s time to pick out a new pair of flying shades, the clear answer is a high-quality pair of aviators.

What are aviator sunglasses?

We know them when we see them, but what exactly are the defining traits of the iconic aviator glasses? Here’s a list from Lenssmart:

  • Lenses that are 2-3 times the size of the eye socket
  • Frames that are not too thick
  • A triple or double bridge
  • The eye is totally shielded by large convex lenses
  • Nose pads that can be adjusted
  • The form of a teardrop that follows the curve of the cheekbone

History of Aviators

The story starts back in the 1930s during the early days of military flight. The original aviator-style sunglasses were created for—you guessed it—aviators. So, who invented aviator sunglasses? They were first made by American Optical and deputed in 1935 with the military designation “D-1 flying goggle.” The purpose of this “goggle” was to help reduce the visual distraction caused by the intense bright blues and whites of the sky and clouds.

These original aviators were a far cry from the trendy looks we see today. Still, by the time the AN6531 military “flying sun glasses” were issued to pilots in 1941, the iconic teardrop shape was part of the design. The U.S. government specified the shape requirement so pilots could easily look down at their instrument panel while in flight. Multiple companies including American Optical and Bausch & Lomb produced large quantities of the AN6531s.

When did aviator sunglasses become popular?

You can thank U.S. General Douglas MacArthur for the aviator shade’s meteoric rise to prominence. Newspaper photos from 1944 showed him cutting a commanding presence in his signature hat, corncob pipe, and aviator sunglasses. Americans were drawn to the strong, heroic image and wanted to emulate it.

By the 1950s, aviators were a part of popular culture and fashion. They took a back seat to the cat eye trend of the 60s but came back strong in the ‘70s and ‘80s. “Top Gun” took over box offices in 1986 and cemented the legendary status of aviator shades.

How did aviator sunglasses get their name?

The original aviators were called “flying sun glasses.” In 1939, Bausch & Lomb’s redesigned military line was called the Ray-Ban Aviator, but it wasn’t until World War II when the public saw photos and video footage of pilots wearing the signature style glasses that the name “aviators” really stuck.

What face shape do aviator sunglasses look good on?

Will you look good in a pair of aviators? We have all heard that before choosing a new pair of shades, you have to make sure the shape is right for your face.

The standard advice is to figure out which face shape you have and look for sunglass shape suggestions. The best sunglasses shapes complement rather than matching your facial shape. For example, if you have a square face, avoid boxy shaped shades, and don’t go for small round lenses if you have a broad, round face.

Spoiler Alert: That’s one of the great things about the unique shape of aviators—unlike many other styles of sunglasses, when sized correctly, aviators can look fantastic on nearly every face (including yours).

The curving lens shape of aviators offsets the more angular square shaped faces. The teardrop bottom of the lens is also good for subtly elongating a round face.

If you have an oval face, you probably already know that you can pull off nearly any shape of sunglasses including aviators and look fantastic.

Heart-shaped faces also do well with aviators too as long as you pay careful attention to the proportions, so they complement your facial features.

What makes Randolph sunglasses so special?

Okay, we’re sold—aviator sunglasses have a long and interesting history and look amazing no matter our facial shape. It’s time to pick out a pair. But with so many options, how does Randolph stand out from the crowd? What keeps them atop the list of best aviator sunglasses?

Randolph Sunglasses was founded in 1972 by a Polish Royal Air Force veteran who immigrated to the United States. He and his business partner were passionate about building better sunglasses, so they got to work on the designs.

Just ten years later, Randolph Engineering won the contract to produce standard uniform-issue military-spec sunglasses for the U.S. Air Force. They just kept growing from there. Randolph still supplies the Air Force, and now they are also the official supplier for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

When you purchase a pair of Randolph aviators, you’re also wearing the same glasses that NASA’s astronauts have been sporting for more than 25 years.

Features of Randolph Sunglasses

Why have the military and NASA been trusting Randolph Engineering to protect the eyes of their military personnel and astronauts for so long?

Clearly, there is some “secret sauce” in the Randolph design.

Lens Tints

When you pick a pair of Randolph’s, you have multiple lens color choices (or you can just do like Tom Cruise and avoid the decision-making by stocking up on one of each). All Randolph’s lenses are non-polarized.

  • American Grey—Randolph’s signature neutral gray tint with true color and contrast in all light and terrain conditions (worn by military pilots and astronauts)
  • AGX—green tint that relaxes the eyes to reduce eye fatigue and improve visual performance
  • Tan—high contrast for low light and overcast days

SkyTec Technology

Your premium military-quality lenses include Vector ™ anti-reflective and Blue Wave ™ lens technology to protect your eyes from glare and blue light without compromising vision. They are naturally scratch-resistant and block 100% of UVA/B even at altitude.

Bayonet Temples

This style of temple is designed to fit comfortably under headgear—no more pressure headaches like you used to get with skull temples. The bayonet design rests gently against your head and its straight design means you can take your shades on and off without removing your headset.


Designed and handcrafted in the USA, Randolph frames are produced by the only remaining metal frame eyewear manufacturer in the United States. Each pair of glasses is built to exacting military specifications designed to ensure they can withstand the rigors of war and space travel.

Randolph is so confident in their quality that they guarantee your Randolph aviators for life.

Randolph Celebrity Sightings

When you head out in your new shades, you will be in good company. Multiple A-list celebrities wear Randolph aviators. Obviously, it’s no surprise that Maverick himself—Tom Cruise—is a big fan of these legendary aviators, but he’s not alone. Other Hollywood legends like Robert Redford and Johnny Depp have also been seen sporting Randolphs.

Randolph’s movie and TV show credits include appearances in American Assassin, American Made, American Sniper, 13 Hours, Baywatch, CSI Las Vegas, Oblivion, The Mummy, Mad Men, and more.

Pick Your Randolph

Okay, the time has come. Now that you’re a subject matter expert on aviators, it’s time to pick out your new favorite shades. Check out our current collection of Randolph Engineering sunglasses.

Pro Tip: Remember to use a ruler and Randolph’s frame sizing guide to choose the best size sunglasses for your face.

More Sunglass-Related Reads

It’s your turn

What are your go-to shades both in the cockpit and on the street? If you own or have tried on a pair of Randolph aviators, what did you think of them?

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