Today, sunglasses are a common accessory throughout the world of sports, but it was not always that way. Sunglasses originally were unappealing because they were made of glass, impaired one's vision and were almost as much of a distraction as they were a benefit. In 1983, one company changed all that and forever changed the world of skiing and sunglasses.
In 1919, the company that would pioneer sunglasses for skiers was born, but they did not make sunglasses in the early days. Vitaliano Salice, founder of the Salice Occhiali factory, first began producing protective eyewear for the marble quarry workers of Musso in Italy. The need for eye protection was incredibly high for these miners, and Salice saw an opportunity to fill a market demand though he had no notable experience in the eye glass manufacturing industry prior to the launch of this venture. Salice was a business man, and it was his instinctive view of future needs that helped to keep his company on the cutting edge of sunglasses technology.
During World War II, Salice's factory produced sunglasses for the army in Italy much like the Bausch & Lomb company did in the United States. After the war, Salice took the products that had been developed for the army and began marketing them to Italy’s burgeoning motorcycle and scooter enthusiasts. As popularity of the Vespa and the Lambretta grew, so did the popularity of the sunglasses that every rider's fashion demanded.
As an age of increased leisure time approached, recreational sports began to grow in popularity among the general public. One such sport was skiing. Before the 1960s, skiing was not a widely popular sport. Unfortunately for the few skiers there were at the time, no light-weight wide-vision goggles existed. Most enthusiasts were forced to wear something similar to the welding goggles of today. Salice produced a ski goggle that was a little more comfortable for the time.
In the 1970s, Salice Occhiali hit a boon period when their goggles were worn by the remarkably successful Valanga Azzurra Italian Ski Team. As their victories grew so too did the demand for the Italian styled sunglasses they wore on the slopes. Salice Occhiali dominated the market as the Italian ski team dominated the Skiing World Cup competitions.
However, the dominating success of Salice Occhiali on the slopes was about to come to an abrupt halt. In 1983, Oakley began producing their first curved plastic lens goggle for skiers with the patented rubber that got stickier when it came into contact with sweat. The new goggles with the big "O" on the strap were lighter, stronger and safer than anything made before. Add in the fact that skier’s field of view was completely unobstructed and soon Oakley was the unchallenged leader of the market.
Today, hundreds of manufacturers have built off of and improved on Oakley's original design; including Oakley themselves. As the popularity of skiing has grown and flourished throughout the world, so have the glasses that go with it. After starting in Italy, sunglasses have become indispensable to skiers.
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