American Optical has been making aviator sunglasses for the U.S. military since 1935 — before the first-ever aviator even went to market. The Illionois-based firm continued to be a go-to for the Air Force and even supplied NASA’s astronauts with metal-framed models for the survival kits on the legendary Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in 1969. After all, the sun still shines in space and is even more harmful if you’re not protected properly. The shades given to Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins are now in possession of the Smithsonian Institute, but luckily American Optical has partnered with Huckberry to recreate those original FG-58 models.
Like many iconic styles, the shape of aviator sunglasses was made that way for a reason. Invented by medical equipment manufacturer Bausch & Lomb in the ‘30s, the large flat lenses offered better coverage and protection for pilots, and the anti-glare lenses for fewer distractions while cutting through the sky. Meanwhile, the teardrop shape was implemented to make it easier for pilots to look at their instrument panels without lowering their heads. Likewise, the close proximity to the face allowed them to be lifted up and down much more efficiently. Bausch & Lomb called its new sunglasses brand Ray-Ban in 1936, which explains its association with aviators. However, American Optical should be right there in the conversation about the silhouette’s origins as well.
The new Huckberry exclusive version of the Original Pilot Sunglasses are made with the same specs as the Apollo 11 versions, with 23K gold-plated frames, green scratch-resistant SkyMaster Polarized CR39 lenses with gray tints for reduced strain, and bayonet-style temples for a vintage look and to eliminate helmet interference. These USA-made specs are also engineered to military specifications for resistance against impact and drops.
Sold in a replica of the exact carrying case that held the ones from Apollo 11, the American Optical Original Pilot Sunglasses are only available from Huckberry’s website for $250.