What do James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause and folk-rock legend Bob Dylan have in common? A pair of sunglasses and a leather jacket.
Sunglasses have long been associated with hardening a man’s looks — and the image is often accompanied by hard rock guitar in the background. For example, Tom Cruise popularised the Ray-Ban Aviator in 1986’s Top Gun, and Michael Jackson’s signature look for his Bad tour in 1987-89 always included the Wayfarer. Even today, Ray-Ban’s iconic eyewear models continue to define the looks of newer artists and musicians.
Ray-Ban’s sunglasses for men, in particular, feature a lot of iconic styles like the retro Clubmaster and Nomad, as well as the legendary Aviators. Of course, the brand has dramatically evolved since then, offering a range of colour combinations and coatings for its premium lenses and frames. Today, classic Aviators are still being sold, and you can even opt for clear prescription lenses on frames like the Wayfarer if you’re not in the market for sunglasses.
In Ray-Ban’s many appearances throughout pop-culture history, the music industry is one of the industries it’s most seen in. In this post, we’ll explore Ray-Bans and their role throughout rock history:
As mentioned in our introduction, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Bob Dylan is known for his legendary songwriting and the Ray-Ban Wayfarer as part of his enigmatic, non-conformist look. These sunglasses have become so interwined with his image that when a new version of his 1965 video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was released in 2022, an AR filter of Dylan’s iconic sunglasses was also released on the Dylan60 website for Instagram and Snapchat users to see through the legend’s lenses virtually.
While not necessarily popularised by Dylan alone, the Wayfarer quickly became his go-to pair of sunglasses after first wearing them in the mid-60s. He wore them during the June 1965 recording sessions for his hit song “Like a Rolling Stone” and is seen in many pictures sporting the iconic Ray-Ban model.
The King of Rock and Roll is also no stranger to the brand. While Elvis is often pictured in different sunglasses from various brands, the King owned a pair of 1970s black Ray-Ban reading glasses. The glasses recently sold for a whopping $11,700 at a rock auction by Julien’s Auctions alongside other iconic rock paraphernalia. The auction featured loved items from renowned rock artists, including Kurt Cobain’s lefty black Fender Stratocaster (smashed during the Nevermind era) that sold for $595,000.
Worn by the King throughout the 70s, the auction listing for Elvis’ reading glasses noted that it came with a black glasses case and a Certificate of Authenticity from Elvis Presley Enterprises at Graceland, where he was an avid reader of spiritual books and the Bible.
Credit: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi under license CC BY-SA 3.0 No changes were made to the image.
A band’s image can be a notable part of their career and place in music history. For Guns n’ Roses, their legendary guitarist Slash has a few key things integral to his look — the top hat and the Ray-Ban Aviator.
In an interview with Rock Hard Magazine, Slash admitted to wearing his sunglasses all the time. The lead guitarist explained that instead of wearing them to be “cool,” he had worn them initially due to the bright lights from camera flashes and the stage. He also joked that it was a nice way to hide once in a while. Eventually, he had simply gotten used to having them on. Guns n’ Roses have been highly influential in the rock genre, inspiring bands like Phobetor, whom we featured in a recent article. Not only are Guns n’ Roses a mainstay in rock music, but thanks to Slash, they can be considered style icons as well.