In 1975, James Jannard founded the Oakley brand, named after his English Setter at the time, in his garage with the intention of producing motorcycle grips. His main aim was to design grips that had more grip and, above all, did not immediately become slippery in the rain. For this purpose, Oakley developed Unobtainium, a very special material that is synonymous with the typical Oakley grip. Unobtainium, by the way, is still used today in temples and the bridge of Oakley eyewear, as well as bracelets for watches. It didn’t take too long for Oakley to expand its line to include motocross as well as BMX accessories such as license plates, gloves, elbow pads and chin guards.
In 1980, Jannard helped Oakley gain wider recognition with the O-Frame, based on motocross goggles. Three years later, the first ski goggles with the Oakley logo followed. Oakley’s first sunglasses were the Factory Pilot Eyeshades, a sporty design that resembled ski goggles and were released in 1984. A year later, the next milestone followed with the Oakley Frogskin – a cool pair of sunglasses produced in Japan. From then on, sunglasses were what Oakley focused on….
With its first sunglasses, the Oakley Lite and Factory Pilot Eyeshades, the brand pursued a concept that was as simple as it was effective: Both goggles were equipped with large, visor-like lenses and full-frame designs developed specifically for action sports. As a result, these glasses offered better protection, and the frames also didn’t obstruct vision to the sides. At the time, you could already guess that it wouldn’t be long before Oakley became a big player in the sunglasses business.
In the mid-eighties, Oakley succeeded in gaining a foothold in the lifestyle eyewear market with the Frogskin. Not only was it the first Oakley eyewear item to feature a dual lens design, it was also a serious competitor to the acclaimed Wayfarer. In parallel with the Frogskin, Oakley launched new innovative sports eyewear in the eighties. In 1985, Oakley presented the Blades, which was one of the pioneers of sport-specific shield lenses. This was followed in the late eighties by the Mumbo, a limited edition goggle that became the legendary M Frame. It was also Oakley’s M Frame that dominated the market during the early nineties.
In 1997, Oakley introduced the Romeo, the first X-Metal sunglasses. Jannard, who had a vision of breakthrough design throughout Oakley’s history, wanted to make sunglasses out of titanium. He was a big fan of the material, and until that time, no titanium sunglasses were available. Lacking a manufacturing facility, Oakley bought a golf club foundry in Nevada and converted it to making eyewear. The combination of rigid and flexible elements in particular led to mediocre forecasts, but once again they turned to Unobtainium: the material was used to develop an adhesive that could solve the problem. Reissues excluded, the X-Metal era lasted mainly from 1997 to 2012, when the X-Squared was retired.
There’s no question that Oakley has a sure touch when it comes to design. But at least as important are the groundbreaking technologies that have helped Oakley products achieve iconic status. Uncompromising clarity and razor-sharp focus are a must at Oakley. Through Oakley High Definition Optics®, the brand offers precise vision from all angles, officially proven by various official tests. For even clearer vision, Oakley lenses come in HD Polarized versions: Polarized lenses filter out most of the blinding light, but it becomes really effective when the base is just a lens without ingredients like adhesives or films. Oakley’s HD Polarized technology utilizes a precise infusion molding process to produce an integral, single-layer lens.
Other groundbreaking innovations from Oakley include Fire Iridium lenses and Prizm lenses. The latter were developed to enhance contrast, benefiting lifestyle designs in everyday use.