When Were sunglasses First used?

When Were sunglasses First used?


4 minute read

'When were Sunglasses first used?' is a really interesting question to explore.

When Were Sunglasses First Used

Nowadays we wear sunglasses as a fashion accessory, to look cool and to complement our clothing styles. Yes, we do also use sunglasses to provide safety from the sun and sunglasses that we buy nowadays often have a purpose too, such as the use of floating eyewear, which is convenient for when we are boating or swimming and we can easily retrieve them if they fall off us.

But many years ago, sunglasses were solely needed for purpose.

Imagine trying to go about your daily life with dangerous natural weather conditions- and your eyesight depended on catching enough food for your family or your tribe to eat for an extended period of time..

This is what the Inuits did 2,000 years ago.

Who were the Inuits?

Who were the inuits?

The Inuits were a tribe of Eskimos in the Canadian, Greenland, Arctic and Alaskan region. They lived in snow fallen areas and had to adapt to hunting for food in the most challenging of weathers and be as resourceful as they could. 

They lived in tents made of animal skins in the summer and in the winter, they lived in Igloos and sod houses. the Igloos are made in such a way, that they trap the warm air and are such a fabulous invention, that they are still used today. 

Inuits still survive today in actual fact were classified in the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 as a 'distinctive group of Aboriginal Canadians who are not included under the First Nations or the Metis.'

Inuit Sunglasses

Early Inuit sunglasses date back to 1200 AD and 1600 AD. They belonged to a tribe known as 'Old Bering Sea' and were crafted from animal bone -mainly walrus ivory and were created to help prevent snow blindedness. They were masked shaped and had small slits for the eyes. They often had intricate markings around the side- which were engraved. 

Walrus Ivory snow goggles

In the early twentieth century, these early sunglasses- which are often referred to as 'snow googles' were made from wood and were carved with beautiful etchings and would be tied around the head with a piece of string. 

Do Inuit Snow goggles work?

Inuit snow goggles were useful in a lot of instances and did reduce glare and sun damage. However wearing them put you more at risk when it came to stumbling from the immediate difficult terrain. You could lose your footing if you were not careful. 

Experts have noted having sharper vision, having tested them.

Even those with bad eyesight have reported clearer vision wearing them. It acts the same way as a pinhole camera. The slit seems to focus the light.

These sunglasses could be responsible for scientists such as Galileo, Newton and others to understand the nature of light and in particular the dangers of Ultra Violet Light. 

The Inuit googles were excellent at reducing UV light and heling to eliminate the chances of getting snow blindedness or it's technical term, 'photokeratitis.' 

What is Photokeratitis?

Photokeratitis photo

Photokeratitis is an eye condition which isn't always serious, but is caused by too much UV light getting into the eyes. It is like a sunburn on the eyes. Lesser symptoms- inlcude itchy eyes, redness in your eyes, swelling.

If you were to continuously be exposed to UV light, it could contribute to more serious disorders such as eye cancer and vision loss.

12th Century Chinese Sunglasses

These ancient chinese sunglasses were also invented with a specific purpose in mind and not fashion.

instead of blocking out the sun's rays, these glasses were designed to hide emotions from judges in a court of law when carrying out interrogations.

These sunglasses were made from smoky quartz and helped to block glare from the sun. 

12th Century Chinese Sunlasses

James Ayscough Glasses

Sunglasses from 17th century onwards evolved in the form of prescription glasses, that could correct sight and help the aged. James Ayscough invented blue and green lens glasses that helped colour blindedness and help depth perception.

James Ayscough Glasses

To summarize, early sunglasses were designed for specific purposes in mind and were designed for people to carry out tasks. 

Nowadays, sunglasses are worn to make us feel a certain way- whilst stlll keeping us safe.

If you liked reading this article, you may be interested in the history of triangle sunglasses...

History of triangle sunglasses

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