The History of Persol

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Originally created for pilots during the infancy of man's days of flying, Persol is now one of the worlds oldest, and most luxurious eyewear brands around. But where did it all start? Read on to find out more.

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Persol is best known for it's outstanding quality and Italian craftsmanship. Hand made in Lauriano Italy, Persol eyewear features the highest quality materials, from crystal lenses to exclusive acetate frames.

Founded in 1917 by Giuseppe Ratti, Persol was originally catered for pilots and sports drivers, who required comfort, protection and perfect vision. As celebrities such as Steve McQueen, Robert de Niro, Jack Nicholson and George Clooney began to wear the brand it's popularity skyrocketed to quickly become one of the world's first names in eyewear.

Here's the story of Persol.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N1Rra73Nzc

The History of Persol

1917 - 1930

Turin 1917, Giuseppe Ratti, photographer and owner of Berry Opticians, began to make technically advanced glasses, designed to satisfy the demands of pilots and sports drivers who required comfort, protection and optimum vision. Protector glasses were born, made using round smoked lenses with rubber edges and attached to the head by means of elastic bands. Soon they were adopted by the Armed Forces and by pilots in the Italian Military Aviation.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

Intuition, ingenuity, innovation and quality made Protector glasses the choice of several air forces around the world, including the United States.

Again in the 1920s the famous yellow-brown lens that is mounted on all Persol glasses was created using neutral crystal made from the purest silica. Its singular characteristic is owed to a special “en masse” manufacturing process that determines its colouring and guarantees extremely high protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

history of persol2
PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

1930 - 1950

Subsequent development of the Protector model, guided by an intuition and determination to create truly revolutionary sunglasses in terms of quality and ease of wearing, led to the creation of the Persol trademark (Persol from “per il sole” meaning “for the sun”, highlighting their function of protection against the sun’s rays).

The extraordinary characteristics of this innovative product were its neat design, crystal lenses (the pride of Persol), the Silver Arrow (both a functional detail and unmistakable decorative element) and the Meflecto patent, a system studied to make the stems flexible and offer maximum comfort.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

The late 1930s saw the introduction of the Meflecto system, the world’s first flexible stem that is still today a distinctive feature of the Persol brand. A real fountain of technology, the glasses were equipped with a flexible bridge that creates a comfortable curve and improves fitting. A further internal metal reinforcement is applied to the stems of new models to allow their adjustment both in length and curving.

This period also marked the birth of the Silver Arrow, Persol’s unmistakable symbol: a hinge decorated with an arrow on the stem, inspired by the swords of ancient warriors. Various versions of the arrow followed until development and technical and design adjustments led to the “Supreme” arrow, that still today distinguishes the Persol trademark.

PHOTO CREDIT: Persol
PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

1950 - 1970

Model 649, built for tram drivers in Turin who needed large glasses to protect their eyes against the air and dust, was created in 1957. The novelty of its design made it a very successful pair of glasses, copied over the years by many competitors, and in 1961 they entered into legend when Marcello Mastroianni wore them in the film “Divorce Italian Style”.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

Protected by several patents and registered trademarks, model 649 represents the symbol par excellence of Persol design. In the 1960s Persol became a source of real pride for Italian industry. Production was extended to work goggles - the Labor model were protective goggles for welding, with specific filters for various uses. It was a highly researched and specialized line, holding over 35 international patents, that took the Persol brand name to the top of the world’s eyewear industry.

1962 was the year in which the United States market was conquered (though Persol had already been supplying NASA with the “four-lens” model). At that time Persol glasses were more and more often being worn by top personalities of the period, not only pilots and sportsmen but also film and television stars such as Greta Garbo and Steve McQueen, who chose Persol both on the set and in everyday life.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

1970 - 1990

The 1980s extended the considerable attention that Persol had always paid to technological innovation and care for its products. Indeed, it took part in several expeditions to test its lenses at high altitudes and in the desert, verifying their performance in extreme conditions, and to experiment with the use of innovative materials.

Over the 80s and 90s, therefore, we see Persol being tested in the most extreme conditions, with an expedition to the Svalbard Islands in Northern Norway, the sponsoring of and participation in several editions of the gruelling Paris-Dakar race, and the outfitting of an entire team for the Pharaohs Rally in 1991.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

In Siberia, Vorkuta over 75 ° N, 65 ° below zero, the Russian astronauts parachuted tutorials for survival, were equipped with Persol sunglasses with polarized lenses plywood. And again, alpinist Enrico Rosso wore Persol glasses in 1989 as he climbed up to the Himalayan summit of Kun (23251 ft). Upon his return he reported that none of the men on the expedition had suffered eye problems thanks to protection from Persol lenses specifically designed for the mission.

From the wealth of information gathered from sportspeople, “Persol Sport” was created in 1990, a line designed to protect the eyes of those involved in sporting activities. At that time Persol’s image was closely associated with personalities from the worlds of sport, such as Jean Alesi in 96 and 97.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

1990 - Present

In the early 1990s Persol's female image was entrusted to Italian actress Ornella Muti, for whom Persol purposely created a pair of incredibly popular glasses (the elegant 830 model), and then in 1993-94 with super model, Carol Alt. She too was dedicated a personalised model (the Carol 853 model).

Los Angeles, 1991, in the legendary and exclusive Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the first Persol boutique opened as proof of a preference shown by an ever wider public. In 1994 Persol was present in 40 countries worldwide and sold in 3.500 points of sale in Italy and over 12.000 in the rest of the world. Its success was indisputable and due to the refinement of its models, Persol has been chosen for the advertising campaigns of great names in the world of fashion.

PHOTO CREDIT: Persol
PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

In April 1995 the Luxottica Group, world leaders in the sector, acquired the Persol trademark and turned it into a major international reality. Persol thus became one the most important brand names on the worldwide eyewear scene while maintaining its roots and loyalty to tradition and quality.

In 1995, 649 was chosen to represent the relationship that exists between fashion, design and technology and was displayed at the exhibition “Fra Moda e Design, linea infinita“ at the Milan Triennial alongside creations by Armani, Cartier, Mary Quant, Prada, Rolex and many others.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

Over the years many famous personalities have chosen Persol and its quality, becoming spontaneous promoters of our brand name: top sportspeople, leading figures in international business and, above all, undisputed celebrities from the world of cinema, a privileged sector for Persol.

Persol glasses have been worn by great names in international cinema who have chosen the Italian sunglasses par excellence not only on set but also in their day-to-day life. Persol’s long “filmography” began in the 1960s and continues to grow, marking a truly special and magical love story with the movie industry.

PHOTO CREDIT: Persol
PHOTO CREDIT: Persol

Your Quick Guide to The History of Persol

  • Founded in 1917 by Giuseppe Ratti, Persol was originally catered for pilots and sports drivers
  • In the 1920s the famous yellow-brown lens that is mounted on all Persol glasses was created using neutral crystal made from the purest silica
  • The late 1930s saw the introduction of the Meflecto system, the world’s first flexible stem that is still today a distinctive feature of the Persol brand
  • 1962 was the year in which the United States market was conquered (though Persol had already been supplying NASA with the “four-lens” model)
  • From the wealth of information gathered from sportspeople, “Persol Sport” was created in 1990

Conclusion

So there we have it! Who knew that one of the worlds most iconic fashion sunglasses brands had such a history steeped in all sorts of activity; from mountain climbing to space travel. Next time you pop in to pick up a pair of shades, you can spare a thought for all the historical moments that a brand may have gone through to end up on that shelf in front of you.

Why not pop over to our shopping pages and take a look at some of the iconic Persol's we've got in stock - spot any comparisons to the older ones.

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