Sunglasses | Westhampton Beach, New York

© Sophie W. Smith

Joined October 2012

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Artist's Description

Modern developments
In the early 1920s, the use of sunglasses started to become more widespread, especially among movie stars. It is commonly believed that this was to avoid recognition by fans, but an alternative reason sometimes given is that they often had red eyes from the powerful arc lamps that were needed due to the extremely slow speed film stocks used.The stereotype persisted long after improvements in film quality and the introduction of ultraviolet filters had eliminated this problem.

Inexpensive mass-produced sunglasses made from celluloid were first produced by Sam Foster in 1929. Foster found a ready market on the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he began selling sunglasses under the name Foster Grant from a Woolworth on the Boardwalk. By 1938, Life magazine wrote of how sunglasses were a “new fad for wear on city streets … a favorite affectation of thousands of women all over the U.S.” It stated that 20 million sunglasses were sold in the United States in 1937, but estimated that only about 25% of American wearers needed them to protect their eyes.

Polarized sunglasses first became available in 1936, when Edwin H. Land began experimenting with making lenses with his patented Polaroid filter. Read more

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