BOTW | Oakley, the Brand Behind the Sports Sunglasses Trend

Every week, we at Highsnobiety take some time to highlight one of our favorite brands through our BOTW (Brand of the Week) series. Last week, we featured iconic Belgian designer Raf Simons, and now we’ve decided to shine a light on another widely known brand, Oakley.

Back in the ’90s, Oakley sunglasses were one of the biggest trends around, along with spiked-up hair, chain wallets, and other questionable fads (no judgment here, we’ve all been through that phase). But like many of the trends we thought had gone for good from that decade, cycling-primed shades are making a comeback — and we have Oakley to thank for it.

Surprisingly, Oakley only began offering sunglasses and motorcycle goggles a few decades ago. Founded by Jim Jannard in 1975, the brand initially designed and produced handle grips for motocross bikes called Oakley Grips, along with other motorcycle parts. A motocross enthusiast himself, Jannard named the company after his dog — an English Setter called Oakley Anne — and started the business from the back of his car with an investment of just 300 bucks.

By the end of the decade, Oakley had begun selling motocross goggles at events and competitions. The goggles were an instant hit and, by the early ’80s, Jannard expanded Oakley’s eyewear line to other sports requiring ample eye coverage, such as skiing and cycling. The first pair were called the Factory Pilot Eye, which were clearly sports-, rather than style-oriented, but pretty soon, a much more casual design came in the form of the wayfarer-esque Frogskins.

US cyclist Greg LeMond wearing Oakley’s during the 16th stage of the Tour de France on July 17, 1990.

The brand’s most crucial year came in 1986 — when American cyclist Greg LeMond was crowned champion of the Tour de France wearing a pair of Oakley sunglasses. The worldwide exposure propelled the eyewear, and soon after Oakley was handing its sunglasses to top athletes of all sports, including the legendary Michael Jordan. Just like that, the rest is history.

Today, with the fashion world championing what many would consider uglier styles of apparel and footwear, it seemed natural for Oakley’s iconic frames to make a comeback, too. And while it was only recently that sunglasses trends veered into tiny and super-thin territory, larger, mirrored styles of cycling frames seem to be taking over. Not only were they seen on the runways of both Heron Preston and Alexander Wang’s SS19 fashion shows, they also featured in the latest collections from Louis Vuitton and Margiela, and recieved celebrity endorsement coming from the likes of Pharrell Williams, who was recently pictured wearing the Oakley Razor Blade shades.

“Oakleys have been your cyclist dad’s favorite pair of shades for years, but now they’ve made their way onto the Paris Fashion Week runways,” says Highsnobiety curator Nigel Minani. “Whether it’s streetwear brands like Palace, Fenty x Puma or high fashion labels like Prada or Vetements — everyone has Oakleys in their SS19 collections. The Matrix is definitely over!”

Oakley’s offerings don’t stop with goggle-like shades, though. In fact, the brand recently dropped a dope Thermonuclear Protection capsule paying homage to the decade Oakley sunglasses were first truly popularized with motocross-inspired tees, pants, jacket, and accessories. What’s more, Oakley recently collaborated with the likes of Palace and Samuel Ross (NBD, just the creative genius behind A-COLD-WALL*).

In appreciation of the brand, below you’ll see some of our favorite Oakley pieces currently available. Along with a few choice eyewear options including the signature Flight Jacket shades, we’ve also featured some of the best pieces from Oakley’s new Thermonuclear Protection capsule, such as a long-sleeve top, beach shorts, and a dope reflective belt bag.

Whether you’re looking for a fresh pair of shades in keep up with the times, or some apparel to rep the Oakley’s roots, shop all our picks from the unlikely trendsetters below.

Looking for more shopping inspiration? Peep our selection of the best sunglasses for every face shape.

Our designated shopping section features products that we love and want to share with you. Highsnobiety has affiliate marketing partnerships, which means we may receive a commission from your purchase.

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