Ray-Ban Wayfarers are so emblematic of summertime that they are name-checked in Don Henley’s 1984 classic, The Boys of Summer. Since the shades debuted in 1952, everyone from Bob Dylan to Michael Jackson, Jack Nicholson, and Tom Cruise have faced the sun (and paparazzi) in them.
Ray-Ban is out with another bold look this summer, a pair of Aviators that feels like anything but your dad’s sunglasses. The Wings 24-Carat Gold Limited Edition is more akin to the Ray-Bans that show up in songs by Tyga (Shades On), Katy Perry (International Smile), M.I.A. (Come Around), and Rick Ross (Veterans Day).
The Wings feature a single, 24-carat, gold-plated lens, gold-plated flat metal top bridge and temples, an engraved logo, upgraded mask shape, and a super-light, single-piece nose pad. They’ll retail for $518.
First developed in 1937 for pilots, Ray-Ban Aviators quickly crossed over from serving as corrective lenses for pilot glare to being the preferred shades for rock stars facing the spotlights. Probably, with the re-make of Top Gun, the model will see a further boost in popularity. But don’t think that getting your hands on one of the gold-plated versions is going to be easy: Ray-Ban is releasing only 500 pairs.
The sunglasses even have an official “Run For Gold” trailer. In it, a gambler loses his fur coat, gold chain, and even his shirt in an underground den—but runs away before having to give up his Wings.
Ray-Ban began as a collaboration between Bausch & Lomb and an American airman. By the 1960s, the company was known less for military-grade optical glass than for its aspirational cool, thanks to such models as the Balorama, made famous by Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character. Ray-Ban continued to prosper through the 1970s and into the early ‘80s with strong cameos in The Blues Brothers, Risky Business, and Top Gun. Yet, by the 1990s, the brand was flagging, despite badass appearances in Reservoir Dogs, Malcolm X, and Men in Black. In 1999, Italian conglomerate Luxottica Group SpA bought Ray-Ban, adding it to a luxury line-up that already included eyewear lines for Versace, Stella McCartney, Burberry, Chanel, and Armani.
Ray-Ban’s star is on the rise again. Music photographer Mick Rock’s “Uncut—The Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sessions,” featuring such artists as the Stooges, Peaches, and Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, have put Ray-Ban back on the red carpet. “Ray-Ban is more than just a brand,” says Marie DiPalma, senior brand director at Ray-Ban North America. “Throughout eight decades, Ray-Ban has been instrumental in pushing boundaries in music and the arts.”
The company is looking ahead, investing in new tech and affinity brands with its Carbon Fibre Ferrari Collection. “Pioneering technology and cutting edge design are key elements at the heart of Ray-Ban’s DNA,” says DiPalma. “There is always something new and exciting in the works.”
So how to decide which Ray-Bans are right for you? When thinking about which style looks best for your face shape, “Focus on balancing your proportions,” says DiPalma. “Think of opposites. If you have a square face, you’ll need rounded frames. Round faces need more rectangular shapes.” DiPalma advises that oval faces can wear pretty much any shape, but look best in oversized styles. And heart faces need frames that can help broaden a delicate jawline, “so Aviators or frames with broad bottom halves tend to work best.”