You know that sunglasses keep the sun out of your eyes and the world out of your business.
But what you may not know is that they have a long history – and they can do much more for you than cut glare and look cool.
These 10 sunglasses facts will make you see shades in a new light.
1. Sunglasses Are Older Than Modern Civilization
Archaeologists have discovered sun goggles used by prehistoric Inuit peoples more than 2,ooo years ago. Hunters battled the arctic elements in walrus-tusk masks with narrow slits over the eyes.
Like today's tinted lenses, the design protected their eyes from the intense glare of the sun against the snow.
2. In Ancient Times, Shades Were A Status Symbol
The Roman emperor Nero watched gladiators fight in the Coliseum through protective lenses made of polished jewels.
In twelfth-century China, dark glasses made of semiprecious smoky quartz were used in court to help judges hide their expressions. This practice was said to make trials more impartial by concealing any clues to the future verdict.
3. A Single Entrepreneur Made Sunglasses Mainstream
In 1919, Sam Foster left his job at a plastics manufacturing firm to go solo, fabricating his own products from the then-new material.
He reinvented his business constantly, trying to carve out a niche – at various points in time he specialized in everything from women's hair accessories to medical equipment. For ten years, Foster kept his business in the black but had no breakaway success.
Then in 1929 he designed the very first modern sunglasses.
He sold a case to a department store in Atlantic City. They caught on like wildfire with beachgoers.
Before long the fad had spread to Hollywood, where the day's biggest celebrities used them to obscure their faces from the paparazzi. This made sunglasses look cooler instantly – and would become a prominent selling point for the brand we now know as Foster Grant.
4. The Ray-Ban Aviator Was A World War II Invention
Sunglasses were primed for another popularity boost when the U.S. Air Force commissioned a team of researchers to design a protective lens for fighter pilots in 1936. The pilots needed glare reduction that was powerful enough for the bright sunlight of high altitudes, but would still leave their vision precise.
Edwin Land – who one year later would found the Polaroid company – developed the lens polarization process that protected pilots' eyes from dangerous UV rays.
The iconic full-coverage shape was then developed and the shades were distributed throughout the Air Force.
After the war, the association with fighter pilots made the aviator style instantly cool. They've been a men's style mainstay ever since.
5. Men's Sunglasses Attract Women
Vanessa Brown, a cultural researcher at Nottingham Trent University who wrote the book Cool Shades: The History and Meaning of Sunglasses, theorizes that the accessory's cachet comes from a sense of mystery. By partially hiding the face, they invite curiosity.
Mystery and curiosity play a key role in female sexual desire.
That's the hypothesis of psychology researchers at the University of Nevada. In other words, what women find sexy may have a lot more to do with what's hidden than what's on display.
Even in a platonic context, a sense of intrigue combined with great personal style is bound to draw people in. If they sense there's something you're not giving away, they want to find out more.
6. Wearing Sunglasses Can Influence How You Behave
An experiment at the University of Toronto asked participants to divide up $6 any way they chose between themselves and an unseen participant in another room.
Subjects who wore sunglasses were less generous – giving away a dollar less on average than those who didn't.
The researchers hypothesize that wearing shades contributes to a feeling of anonymity that makes people less accountable. Sunglasses hide important social cues – creating that sense of mystery mentioned above, but also throwing a very slight wrench in the usual give and take of human interaction.
7. Sunglasses Can Make Your Face More Symmetrical
You've probably heard that handsomeness is more or less a function of facial symmetry. Humans find order aesthetically pleasing, and a face whose two sides are very uniform has a natural appeal.
Of course, no human being's face is perfectly symmetrical. But most of the asymmetry is actually concentrated close to the eyes. So covering this area – say with a pair of sunglasses – can give you an edge in the looks department, at least at first glance.
8. Sunglasses Can Help Men Live Longer
Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation – a leading factor in skin cancers and diseases of the eye and eyelid. These are among the most common cancers and a major cause of death in American men.
Don't let this sobering news scare you out of the sun – sunlight is also essential for processing certain nutrients and regulating brain chemistry. But you should be wearing proper sun protection, and sunglasses are a great place to start.
Not all sunglasses protect against UV radiation. Be sure to check the label every time you buy a new pair.
Cheap sunglasses make your eyes absorb MORE radiation – the dark lenses dilate your pupils but don't protect you.
A carefully chosen pair, however, will be highly effective against the harmful rays. By reducing cancer risks, regular wear can increase your chances of longevity.
9. Your Sunglasses Color Matters
Yellow and amber sunglasses are ideal for outdoor sports – especially in the snow. Blue light strains and ages your eyes, and yellow tints balance out this effect.
Reddish or purple lenses have a similar effect for the light reflected by water on a sunny day. Reach for a red-tinted lens if you'll be boating or doing water sports.
For everyday, a greenish lens filters that harsh blue light without rendering you temporarily colorblind. Green-tinted sunglasses are especially good for driving, when color is important for perceiving traffic signals and signs quickly.
10. Someone in America breaks, sits on, or loses a pair of sunglasses every 14 seconds.
Try this neat trick when you're shopping for your next pair.
To check if those polarized lenses are REALLY polarized, take two pairs of sunglasses off the shelf and hold them at a 90-degree angle to each other so one set of lenses layers on top of the other. If there’s an obvious blocking of light, they’re polarized.