Artifact: Oakley Eyeshades
If you're like most of us, you were probably introduced to Oakley via their casual Frogskins, or perhaps the M-Frame glasses that seemed ubiquitous among MLB players of the '90s. But the Oakley Eyeshades came first. From his garage in 1980, where he was using a new material called Unobtainium to make motocross grips that actually increased grip when exposed to moisture, Oakley founder Jim Jannard decided to make a radical new motorcross goggle design with a later-patented cylindrical-shaped lens. Next on his list? Sunglasses.
Jannard used the same single-lens design from his goggles for the new shades, along with the Unobtainium technology, guaranteeing a secure fit. The lenses themselves were made from an optically-pure synthetic material called Plutonite that was lightweight, boasted stout impact resistance, and filtered out 100% of all UV. If all that sounds familiar, it's because the company still relies on the material today. The Eyeshades also sported innovations like non-slip hydrophilic nosepieces and adjustable earstems.
Launched in 1984, American cyclist Greg LeMond was one of the first to adopt the new Oakley Eyeshades, a fact made more interesting because most Tour de France cyclists shunned eye protection at the time. Following LeMond's second-place finish in the 1985 tour, the glasses became must-have equipment for a host of other riders, cementing Eyeshades as an icon of sport sunglasses. From there, a stampede of other athletes and weekend warriors joined the Oakley bandwagon.
While you can't buy an original pair of Eyeshades — the ones we photographed live at Oakley HQ, inside the metal briefcase of company historian and former motocross rider Mike Bell — you can now pick up a collectors edition of these historic sunglasses, complete with "2014" inside the frame, improved nose pad constructions and two sets of earstems.
Presented by Oakley. Watch Oakley's story of disruptive design, narrated by Kevin Spacey, here.