Back in the ’90s, Oakley's sports sunglasses were, along with spiked hair, baggy pants, and chained wallets, pretty much everywhere. Fast forward three decades and these designed-for-motocross shades are still as relevant, an item fixed firmly on heads of the style literati by a runway resurgence and a sustained demand for performance-driven gear today.
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.
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.
Oakley's iconic frames made a full fashion comeback in 2018, with sportswear sunglasses taken down the runway by the likes of Louis Vuitton, Maison Margiela, and Heron Preston. More labels have followed suit since and Kylian Mbappé has joined its ranks as an ambassador, with Oakley continuing to develop models for a new generation.
"Oakley has been the go-to sports-sunglass brand for decades now. I remember how cool it felt to get a pair of their famous Eye Jacket (kind of a Matrix-sports vibe) as a teenager and I remember even more how uncool it felt a few years later to wear small glasses when Oakley’s bigger frames took over," says Highsnobiety creative director Herbert Hofmann. "They always seem to be on-trend — an inspiration for the fashion industry."
In appreciation of Oakley and its infiltration of high fashion, we've picked out some of our favorite sunglasses from the brand below.
Want to keep browsing? Head to the Highsnobiety Shop for more products that we love. Highsnobiety has affiliate marketing partnerships, which means we may receive a commission from your purchase.