STORY OF SHADES: MOUNTAINEERING GLASSES

A bearded man, wearing heavy wools and carrying a leather and pony-fur rucksack, stops into a local alpine village craftsman. He puts down his rucksack, which contains, among other things, a climbing axe, hammer and pitons — tools for mountaineering.

The mountaineer hands the craftsman a pair of simple metal-rimmed sunglasses along with some leather scraps. He asks the craftsman to turn the sunglasses into something appropriate for the mountain, to use the leather to cover the gaps between the frame and face in order to block out the wind and sun. When the craftsman is finished the mountaineer is equipped with a pair of sunglasses that make for a safer and more comfortable ascent onto the virgin peak of an Alpine mountain.

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Illustration: Ping Zhu for MYKITA JOURNAL

Stories like this are commonplace to the innovation of eyewear. As objects which combine need, function, and personal taste, eyewear has evolved through the hands and demands of the people. Much of what we find stylish today is rooted in the archetypes of function, which dictated form — round spectacles, glacier and mountaineering glasses, pilot sunglasses, ski shields, and safety goggles, to name a few. Yet what is often forgotten is the technical limitations each generation of innovators worked against, pushing the edge of what could be done. Sometimes it would take decades before technology could catch up with the dreams of the designers and collaborators. Meanwhile, those technical limitations allowed for creative solutions that brought an iconic and standout quality to many designs, giving them an aesthetic appeal which attracts us today. 

Snow and ice reflect and magnify the sun’s intensity, and even with cloud cover there is danger of snow blindness from UV rays. An early, simple solution to this type of harsh environment can be seen in the invention of the Inuit and Nenet.

Early, familiar examples of protective eyewear had already emerged by the 1800s. Yet this eyewear technology was still fairly rudimentary compared to our standards. Resourceful explorers and inventors worked within those limitations and introduced clever solutions. For example, the extreme weather conditions of alpine mountaineering required maximum protection. Snow and ice reflect and magnify the sun’s intensity, and even with cloud cover there is danger of snow blindness from UV rays. An early, simple solution to this type of harsh environment can be seen in the invention of the Inuit and Nenet. Their protective eyewear was fashioned out of bone, featuring a narrow horizontal slit across the middle which acted like a squinting eye, cutting down on the amount of light reaching the pupils and allowing the wearers eyes to relax, reducing fatigue. Modern iterations of this concept include tinted lenses to decrease light intensity and mirror coatings to reflect more light as well as harmful ultra-violet rays away from the eyes.

In the case of the early mountain explorers, working within the already established pattern of two lenses and a connecting piece over the bridge of the nose, they also needed to contend with severe wind conditions. The solution: adapt the frames with leather side-pieces to block the wind and add extra protection from the intense alpine sun. Add a top bar, which gives a frame the double bridge, to make glasses more stable. These simple yet ingenious additions provided the ultimate protection from the elements, as well as concepts which have been elaborated on ever since.

Automobile drivers, train conductors, skiers, and explorers all needed protection from wind and sun. With the iconic and daring mountaineers the resultant look was a distinctive style symbolising a person who is ready for adventure...

Innovation is born of its time. The drive for adventure and exploration that inspired the early mountain expeditions was a result of cultural and technological developments. Importantly, the growing middle-class led to an increase of people with leisure time for vacations and sports. The industrial revolutions had given us the train and automobile. Combined with an urge — influenced and supported by philosophical movements of the generation — to be in nature and breathe fresh air, tourism boomed. The speed of these new transportation modes and the emerging active outdoor lifestyle demanded evolutions in eyewear. Automobile drivers, train conductors, skiers, and explorers all needed protection from wind and sun. With the iconic and daring mountaineers the resultant look was a distinctive style symbolising a person who is ready for adventure, for whatever comes their way.

It was in this spirit of adventure and ingenuity that the MYKITA MYLON glacier glasses were conceived.  The distinctive feature of the frames are the add-on side clips.  These provide ultimate protection from the elements, and are the futuristic alternative to the leather sections of the early alpine goggles.

The lenses in the MYKITA MYLON glacier sunglasses are made of mineral glass, extremely strong and impart crisp vision, crucial for wear on and off the snow, whether viewing distant mountains, the sea, or the person sitting next to you.

Find a selection of MYKITA MYLON's glacier sunglasses available at the MYKITA E-Shop.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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