Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Ray-Ban Icons Sunglasses: The Clubmaster


"If 1937 was the invention of cool, then 1986 was the year it matured..."
- The Clubmaster, Ray-Ban icons


The Ray-Ban Clubmaster is one of the most enduring pieces of the Ray-Ban Icons range. A style which is steeped in fashion history, it might be surprising to learn that the modern Clubmaster was actually developed by Ray-Ban in 1986. Drawing on over 50 years off fashion heritage and history, this iconic browline style is a timeless classic which returns time and time again.

The Browline style was first manufactured in America in 1947 by a company called Shuron Ltd, under the brand, Ronsir. The early Ronsir Browline glasses featured interchangeable eyewires, bridges and brow pieces, giving the wearer the ability to completely customise and change the look and colour of the glasses as they desired.

Malcolm X in 1965 wearing browline glasses. Image Michael Ochs.
The Browline features a thick upper part to the frame, giving the impression of eyebrows and lending the style it's name, and usually a thin, metal or plastic lower eye frame. The Browline was quickly picked up on and emulated by other eyewear manufacturers, who developed the design further into mens, womens and unisex designs and incorporating features such as unique plaques and materials, including plastic brows made to look like woodgrain which were popular for a time in the fifties.

James Dean in browline glasses
The browline became one of the most popular styles in the fifties and sixties, where the style accounted for half of all glasses sold in America in the 1950s. The style got it's footnote in history when it was worn by figures such as black liberationist, Malcolm X who was frequently photographed wearing browline glasses and also president Lyndon B. Johnson, who was famously pictured wearing browline glasses when he signed his national statement regarding the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

More famous browline glasses wearers include American actor, James Dean and London gangster, Ronnie Kray, showing how wide the appeal of the style was to people in all walks of life and culture.

In the 1970s there was a decline in popularity for the browline during a backlash against culture and fashion of the 1950s and 60s, which had begun with the late sixties hippie counter culture. The style was viewed standing for some of the more undesirable conformist aspects of the past and were thought too conservative. Despite this, Shuron, the original manufacturer of the browline, passed 16 million pair sold in 1971 and the style did remain popular among older people. In 1978 the browline style had a resurgence, when an anti-disco backlash effected the popularity of the Aviator and Teashade sunglasses (round, John Lennon style sunglasses) which had been at the forefront of eyewear fashion since the decline of the browline's popularity.



Bruce Willis in Moonlighting

In the mid eighties, Bruce Willis wore browline glasses for the part of David Addison in popular cop TV series, Moonlighting. Willis wore a pair of Ronsir browline glasses, but it was this surge in popularity and demand which lead Ray-Ban to develop it's Clubmaster style in 1986.

Ray-Ban, already famous for the Aviator and Wayfarer sunglasses styles, added the Clubmaster to the range to bring together all of the history and heritage of the browline in one definitive and iconic style. The classic Clubmaster features the thick browline with subtle metal eye frame and bridge and plastic arms. Immediately popular, the Clubmaster became the third best-selling sunglasses style of the 1980s, just a little behind the Aviator and Wayfarer.

Tim Roth in Reservoir Dogs


The style became an iconic choice for movies. The Clubmaster was worn by Denzil Washington as Malcolm X in the movie of the same name in 1992 and Tim Roth also wore the Clubmaster when he starred as Mr Orange in Reservoir Dogs in the same year.

Rich Sommer as Harry Crane in Mad Men

Into 2000 and beyond the style continues to dominate sunglasses fashion. The popularity of the TV series Mad Men (2007 - 2015) brought the browline style back into the spotlight again, and despite Shuron being the only American
company to still manufacture browline glasses, the Clubmaster style has never been more popular. Ray-Ban currently include many variations of the Clubmaster style in their currant range - the classic Clubmaster is available in black and havana tortoiseshell as always, and added to this are seasonal colours, limited edition new materials and a special folding Clubmaster which was developed for Ray-Ban's 75th anniversary.

Find more Clubmaster styles here.