One of the biggest trends in eyewear today is fast shades, which are a nod to the sunglass style associated with race car drivers: narrow, streamlined, sporty, and very ’90s. And if you weren’t familiar with the term “fast shades,” you’ve definitely seen them on the likes of Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and A$AP Rocky, to name a few.
In many ways, fast shades are the chunky sneakers of eyewear. Fast shades have essentially become a bonafide trend for the very reasons the fashion industry has embraced chunky sneakers: they're heavily influenced by "ugly style" and all things '90s revival. Remember comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's now-iconic fictional Ali G character from the late-'90s, whose get-up included those infamous yellow sunglasses? How about the striking photo of Michael Jordan wearing a pair of Eye Jackets?
The original Eye Jacket dropped in 1994 and not only did they push the eyewear industry forward in terms of technology, but also in style – the design became synonymous with performance eyewear. It’s no surprise, then, that when tracing the trend's history, Oakley was one of the originators of the fast shades trend, which clearly had an influence on eyewear designs ever since.
For 2019, Oakley is releasing a modern-day version of the iconic Eye Jacket called the Eye Jacket Redux. It's updated with cutting-edge technology, including Prizm, which is designed to increase color, contrast, and details for an improved view of life. The visually recognizable oval shape remains and comes in a variety of colorways that will work with any outfit.
To get a better understanding of the fast shades trend and the heritage of the Eye Jacket, we caught up with Oakley's Brian Takumi, VP of Product Creative Catalyst.
What inspired the original Eye Jacket of the ’90s?
The design language for the brand was changing at the time. You can see the evolution to a more “sporty” look that had more dimension and speed to it. You can see it even in the evolution of the logo. What was the iconic '80s logo had a couple of versions where it was compressed to create a faster look. So, when you look at that logo, which was very square, and then compress it, you get an oval. This became a pretty iconic shape not only for the Eye Jacket lens, but also for E Wire.
Then, when you take what Oakley was making at the time of shields and Razor Blades with the high wrap, and bring that into a dual lens, you get a pretty unique shape for the time with where Oakley went with eyewear. Sport didn’t necessarily mean you had to wear a shield.
The Eye Jacket revolutionized the sports eyewear industry in the ’90s, from technological innovations to style. Can you speak to that?
At the time, even as Oakley had developed the sport eyewear market, it was pretty synonymous with shields. Eye Jacket, Straight Jacket, Trenchcoat, and E Wire definitely brought an even fresher look to sport. Even though they were dual lens, at that time the look was not meant to be ”lifestyle” eyewear; it was sport eyewear that just happened to look like lifestyle eyewear. I guess it really was for the sport lifestyle. For a lot of our athletes, their sport was their life. The look of that '90s eyewear had all the technology that our “sport” shields did: impact protection, UV protection, high definition optics. It was the whole technology package that just wasn’t in a shield form.
Talk to us about the history and evolution of the Eye Jacket, from the original to today’s Redux.
Just like anything, there’s always going to be the original. At the same time, there is always an opportunity to evolve. As we looked at the trend coming back around, there were a lot of things we saw we could evolve. At the same time, we knew we had to keep the essence of the original Eye Jacket there. Those things being that iconic oval shape and the narrow temple coming off the front. We added a little contemporary design language to give it a slight update.
The biggest evolution from the original is the fit. While we have always had our 3-point fit on all our eyewear with the straight stem, there was a huge opportunity to improve that. Technology has come a long way and the way we fit our glasses now is light years ahead of where we were. We were able to fit considerably more head shapes and sizes than we did back then. Also, it sits on your face much more comfortably than feeling like it was sucked onto your eyes.
Nineties and fast shades are both big trends in fashion at the moment – why do you think that is?
Everything kind of comes back around again. A few years ago you had the '80s thing, and now you get into '90s. I'm sure you’ll see Y2K come back around. I think one thing you can do is figure out how you can make yourself contemporary. There is always the opportunity to do straight reissues. You still need to find ways to update yourself, though.
For you, what are some memorable moments in the Eye Jacket’s history that speak to this trend?
The whole Jacket line back in the day had some pretty iconic moments and personalities that went with them. [Michael] Jordan was probably one of the biggest, of course. When you think about that image of him coming out of black with those silver Eye Jackets on, there was no mistaking who that was.
Over the few years after that, the Eye Jacket had such a look with it in sport with those oval lenses. As I mentioned, it was so incredible to see athletes using it in sport. We had the whole self-portrait campaign where we had our snow athletes actually skiing and snowboarding in them. Life was sport and sport was life. Even John Tomac, who was a mountain bike world champion, raced in the Eye Jacket. And think at that time we had M Frames and our sport shields and our team still wanted to wear Jackets because they were so progressive.
Talk to us about the Eye Jacket Redux and how it captures the spirit of the fast shades trend.
With the trend so strong, it only made sense that Eye Jacket should be part of that story. When you think back to Eyeshades, Blades/Razor Blades, and Jackets, Oakley has been a pioneer in that sports performance eyewear world. It only makes sense that the Eye Jacket is part of that – the original and Redux.