Oakley Sunglasses History



In 1975, Jim Jannard set about changing the world. He was dissatisfied at the poor quality of motorcycle handgrips, so he gathered 300 dollars and formed Oakley. He named his new company after his English Setter dog. Working from his garage in California, Jannard started out by inventing "The Oakley Grip". Jannard formed the revolutionary grip from a material he named Unobtainium. This new material actually increased grip with perspiration, making it an instant hit within the motocross world.


As the eighties rolled in, Jannard began crafting motocross goggles. Almost as soon as it appeared, his Oakley O-Frame goggle became a favourite with top pros such as Ricky Johnson, Jeff Ward, Mark Barnett and Johnny O'Mara. For 18 years, no other goggle could compete with the O-Frame. Oakley's pure Lexan lens maintained a perfect arc, bringing the wearer unrivalled peripheral vision, accuracy and impact protection. In 1983, Jannard took the O-Frame and adapt it for the mountain. These new O-Frame ski goggles mirrored the success of their motocross equivalent. And it wasn't long before Jannard set sights on producing Oakley sunglasses. First came Oakley Factory Pilot Eyeshades, which were lauded for their lightweight frame and superior optical performance. By now, Oakley had turned eyewear into a vital tool for athletes worldwide. After Factory Pilot Eyeshades, Oakley Frogskins sunglasses emerged to offer Oakley's visual performance in a more casual sunglass. American cyclist Greg LeMond approached Oakley in 1986 for a pair of Eyeshades. Wearing the Eyeshades, LeMond propelled his way to the Tour de France title that year. Oakley launched the M-Frame in 1989, and they quickly became the sports sunglasses of choice for many of the world's top athletes.


The nineties hailed another decade of forward-thinking design from Oakley. Wrap-shaped sunglasses and colourful lenses became popular with fans as well as athletes. Oakley developed the Eye Jacket, the first sunglass ever designed virtually using CAD/CAM. Oakley went public in 1995 and four years later they brought in Jim Stroesser from Nike as Head of Sales.


At the turn of the millennium, Oakley expanded further. They signed a deal with Fox to manufacture Fox eyewear in 2004 before buying the Oliver Peoples brand in 2006. Eventually, Italian eyewear giants Luxottica brought Oakley for a whopping 2.1 billion US Dollars.

Oakley’s team roster included the biggest names in performance sports including Shaun White, Ichiro Suzuki, Dorien Walker, Lance Armstrong, Ricky Carmichael, James "Bubba" Stewart and Gretchen Bleiler.


During the successful rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped for ten weeks in October 2010, a journalist approached Oakley regarding a donation. The journalist knew that upon being freed, the miners would need to protect their eyes after spending such a long time underground. Oakley duly obliged, supplying 35 pairs of Oakley Radar sunglasses with specially engineered lens tints.

At the London 2012 Olympics, athletes turned out in force sporting the Oakley Radarlock sunglass. With it's combination of a lightweight frame and Oakley's Plutonite lenses, it helped athletes perform at their best. Oakley athletes walked away from the games with a staggering 107 medals, of which 38 were gold, 42 were silver and 27 were bronze. Today, Oakley's athlete roster includes stars like Shaun White, Valentino Rossi, Fernando Alonso, Gretchen Bleiler, Bradley Wiggins, Rory McIlroy and Oscar Pistorius. Oakley has recently upped the ante with their skiing goggles too. The Oakley Airbrake brought Switchlock Technology to the hill. It's addition to the Airbrake allowing the wearer to switch lenses to match the mountain's ever-changing moods. In 2012, the Oakley Airwave brought electronic gadgetry and a unique Heads-Up display to snow goggles. This added to their list of over 600 patents as Oakley continues to lead where others can only hope to follow.

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