Who Created The Very First Sunglasses Ever?

Who Created The Very First Sunglasses Ever?

For centuries, human beings have lived in freezing weather conditions, and in turn have created clothing to protect themselves. Most famously, people of Inuit heritage, commonly referred to as 'Eskimo' - though this term has since become less politically correct. 

As a side note as to why we probably shouldn't use the word 'Eskimo', many people of Arctic heritage consider 'Eskimo' a derogatory term, because it was widely used by racist, non-native colonizers. A lot of them thought it meant 'eater of raw meat', which insinuated a barbaric, violent lifestyle.

Although the word's exact etymology is unclear, mid-century anthropologists suggested that the word came from the Latin word excommunicati, meaning the excommunicated ones, because the native people of the Canadian Arctic were not Christian.

However a more modern theory has emerged. The Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, states that linguists believe the word 'Eskimo' was actually derived from the French word esquimaux, which means 'one who nets snowshoes'. Snow shoe netting is the very efficient way that Arctic people created winter footwear. They tightly wove, or netted, sinews from caribou or other available animals across wooden frames.

Apparently the etymological record wasn't corrected in time for the language to correct itself. Given the racist history of the planet, most indigenous people of Greenland and Canadian heritage prefer other terms, such as Inuit. 'Inuit' translates to 'people' or 'the people'. A singular person is referred to as an 'Inuk'. 

Regardless of this slightly off-topic content, the term 'Eskimo Eyewear' is in face a recognized classification for eyewear within the eyewear collectors' community. It does not refer to any one specific snowy area or ethnic group living in freezing temperatures. 

The first official 'sunglasses' in the world were created by Inuits to protect themselves from snow blindness (or photokeratitisis to use its official name). There is no glass of course, however the primitive items still protected the eyes from UV light. They carved bone, with two slim slits for vision.

The smaller open area protected the eyes from direct glare and of course in blizzards, the amount of snow and debris assaulting the eyes would be drastically reduced. 

Eskimo Eyewear, first sunglasses invented Inuit people

The narrow eye slits in the bone 'sunglasses' protect from glare on snow and water. The strsps that held them in place is made of walrus hide. In the North American dialect, the 'safety goggles' were referred to as 'iggaak'. They have been worn for over 4000 years, making them far and away the oldest form of eyewear in the world. With no glass or corrective abilities, they were solely for protection. 

Interestingly, the styles vary greatly, as each native group made their own. Traditional techniques were used to create the primitive, yet effective eyewear. They are impossible to clearly date. Discovered in and around the Arctic Circle (including Inuit tribes) Canada and Greenland, no doubt discarded over time for more modern options. 

Later generstions have switched dog-pulled sleds to ski mobiles, why not switch ancient glasses for modern goggles like Ray-Bans or such? Local natural materials are rarely used anymore, when pre-made, more attractive and less time consuming options exists. 

Antique 'Eskimo Sunglasses' Inuit glasses


Actually, in the 1960's Filos SpA of Italy produced a style of 'sunglasses' without any lenses but just slits, reminiscent of the historic Eskimo sunglasses creations. These were more carefully fitted to the face of course, with contemporary glasses temple arms rather than attached via walrus-hide strap.
The modern acetate frame was given a natural wood look, as a nod of respect to the original creators from whom the design and idea inspired the look. The National Museum in Copenhagen holds hundreds of these 'Eskimo style replicas' on display. A fascinating attempt at bringing the past into current say fashion style. It's a nice idea;fashion does tend to be cyclical.
Safilo cute homage to Eskimo sunglasses, Inuit creations