Look at the history of Oakley and you’ll see moments that changed everything. Radical new creations from design-crazy visionaries yanked the rug out from a world that was complacent with everything conventional. Style was reinvented, limits were shattered and athletes discovered a whole new realm of possibility. People looked at the latest Oakley innovations with slack-jawed shock, and thoughts of “what the hell is that?” were followed by “where can I get one?!”
It all came from a design philosophy obsessed with defying the status quo. The term “Mad Science” became part of our identity but it meant more than just technology, and it still does today. We’re a brand that takes risks and delivers the unexpected because we are mad about design. Everything we make is a seamless blend of form and function, and the things we create are chapters that rewrite history. That’s the foundation of our heritage and the pride of our icon.
We’re celebrating that pride with a blast from the past. It’s called the Heritage™ Collection, and the idea here isn’t as simple as resurrecting old designs and connecting with the “old is new again” popularity of vintage looks. This means more. It’s about the incredible inventions that rocked the world with fresh ideas and new possibilities, the design-mad company that created them, and the progressive thinking that continues to bust the boundaries of what is possible. It’s a celebration of iconic pieces that give a glimpse of the future: the ongoing heritage of Oakley.
The Evolution of an Idea
Decades ago, a Mad Scientist believed eyewear could evolve from generic accessory to essential sports gear. The idea was radical at the time. That visionary founded a company called Oakley that drove the evolution, raising eyewear to the standing of vital equipment.
The World’s First True Performance Eyewear
Turn back the clock three decades and you’ll be in a time when few Tour de France riders bothered with sunglasses. Some wore aviators and generic frames in competition, and those shades provided little more than a fashion statement. The riders may have looked good but they certainly did not see well, and as far as impact protection was concerned, good luck with that. When Bernard Hinault crashed in the 1985 TdF, his conventional sunglasses made his injuries worse. Two black eyes, a broken nose and cuts from the frame nearly cost him the Tour.
The attitude toward eyewear was, “This is something to dim bright sunlight and maybe block some wind.” The old school cycling fraternity was afraid to wear anything that defied a very traditionally-fashioned sport, and notions like enhanced visual performance and protection weren’t even considered — until the founder of Oakley introduced Eyeshades®, the world’s first true performance eyewear.
A Mad Scientist Changes the World
“If you’re going to do something, be brave and jump in, but do something meaningful.” That was the thinking of Oakley’s founder. His philosophy of success was simple: “It comes from believing in what you’re doing, and striving to do it better than anyone thought possible.” His approach would become a driving passion for Oakley: “Seek out problems, find solutions, and wrap them in art.”
Created in his garage, the Mad Scientist’s first invention was a motocross handgrip with a unique material called “Unobtainium®” that actually increases grip when exposed to moisture. He went on to invent a radically new goggle design with a cylindrical lens shape. Then he decided to reinvent sunglasses from scratch.
Oakley’s founder used Unobtainium to make his new eyewear fit securely, even with perspiration. For unbeatable clarity and extended peripheral vision, he utilized the lens shape from his goggle design. (The innovation was so unique, it was awarded a patent.) For the lens material, he took advantage of a formula called “Plutonite®,” an optically pure synthetic that reduces weight, optimizes impact resistance and inherently filters out 100% of all UV. The new eyewear invention came out in 1984. Referred to as Oakley “Lights” and “Factory Pilots,” the frames eventually gained the trademark “Eyeshades.”
World-Class Athletes Take Notice
A young American cyclist, Greg LeMond adopted the new design. The technology was as radical as the look, and in the era of the ’80s, wearing it meant making a statement. It took time for the old-school thinking of cyclists to embrace the idea of eyewear as performance equipment, but Oakley’s founder had a philosophy of, “If you build it, they will come.”
When LeMond earned 2nd Overall at the 1985 TdF (and 1st in the Combination classification) with the visual clarity, protection and comfort of Eyeshades, it sent Oakley on a hard-charging trajectory. The invention became essential gear for the likes of Andy Hampsten, Glen Plake, Gary Elkerton, and Scott Tinley. A generic accessory became vital equipment.
Leaps of Evolution
New inventions followed. Oakley continued to raise the bar and set new performance benchmarks with the best riders on the planet consistently choosing its product to achieve their absolute best.
LeMond put his faith in Eyeshades and new designs called Blades®, and eventually M Frame®, to become the TdF champion in 1986, 1989 and 1990. Invented at the time of Blades, Iridium® lens coating balanced light transmission and reduced glare, and from the mid-1990s onward, Iridium lenses could be seen in almost every group photo from the Tour.
Oakley advanced the science of optics by leaps and bounds. “Our first products incorporated lens geometry so there would be terrific optics,” said the company founder. “We received patents right from the start.” Oakley used corrective technology to compensate for the view-distorting potential of highly curved lenses, and worked it into a shield style. It was the first step toward High Definition Optics® (HDO®), a collection of Oakley technologies that maintain clarity and visual fidelity all the way to the edge of lenses with curvature that extends peripheral vision and improves side protection against sun, wind and impact.
Over the years, more and more professional athletes gave Oakley the highest praise: they wore the company’s performance eyewear — not because they were paid to do so, but because it pays to do so. Today, athletes in a wide range of sports rely on RadarLock™, Radar®, Flak Jacket® XLJ and Racing Jacket®, as well as other Oakley eyewear to perform at their best.
Patents are piling up as new innovations are continually added to the Oakley portfolio of invention. Athletes can now take advantage of such breakthroughs as Switchlock™ interchangeable lens technology that makes the process of lens changing quick and hassle-free, allowing the wearer to adapt vision to the activity and environment with lens tints that are redefining possibility in optics. Lightweight yet durable frame materials like Oakley O Matter® optimize impact resistance, and the company’s Three-Point Fit holds lenses in precise optical alignment with all-day comfort.
Building on its heritage of invention, Oakley went from being the best sunglass company in the world to a world-class brand. Relentless innovation established Oakley’s authenticity in sports and made its name synonymous with innovation, as well as the seamless blend of science and art that shapes performance with definitive style.
Who is the Heritage Collection for?
We made the collection for customers who are passionate about sports and passionate about Oakley. Those who grew up with the brand will view the classic designs and colors with nostalgia, recalling their first pair of Oakley eyewear and the favorites they’ve owned in the past. But the collection also speaks to the new, young consumer who appreciates authenticity. That’s something we earned through a heritage of creating breakthrough products. For them, the reissues are new and novel in ways that defy current trends with attitude that salutes the lifestyle of action sports.
What’s in the collection?
This is a fresh take on the classics that brings together the best of what Oakley has offered and continues to offer in performance and style. We brought back some of the most groundbreaking designs and favorite colors, and we applied those colors to some of our current eyewear products that define the ultimate in performance. Each frame in the Heritage Collection comes with a custom Microclear™ bag decked with art that celebrates our design-mad approach, as well as the richness of a progressive design philosophy that will continue to reinvent possibility in the future.
Featuring “2014” inside the frame, this edition of our world-first performance eyewear is engineered with improved nose pad construction. It comes with two sets of earstems (curved and straight) plus a guitar pick that is meant to serve as a tool for swapping out the stems. Customers also get a collectors pin and sticker.
Oakley Razor Blades™ continued the revolution that Eyeshades began. The Heritage Collection has Razor Blades in multiple lens/frame color combinations, and each collectible comes with both straight and “trigger” shaped earstems along with a guitar pick, pin and sticker.
Frogskins® were our first dual-lens design, and this edition includes a collectors pin and sticker. The retro eyewear brings a slice of originality to your street look with a shape carved right out of sunglass history, and the frame is crafted with contrast earstems that carry one of our earliest logos.
Custom Editions of Current Performance Eyewear
To let athletes pay tribute to sport heritage while enjoying state-of-the-art technology, the collection features renditions of RadarLock, Radar, Flak Jacket XLJ, and Racing Jacket. Our artists accented the top edge of each frame with a printed stripe graphic that carries the colors of our original eyewear creations. Commemorating our 30 years of eyewear innovation, a “30” graphic is laser etched at the corner of the lens in each edition.
The designs from our past show what is possible when innovators are given the tools to achieve their vision, along with the inspiration of like minds that aren’t satisfied with just changing the game — they want to shift the entire paradigm. In performance, style and everything that matters, an uptick in design isn’t enough for them. They want to turn the clock ahead to tomorrow, and do it by boosting the benchmark of the best.
Our design philosophy is guided by a simple idea: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” We are known for our obsession with design, and if it is fanaticism, it is fueled by passion and pride. Designs must earn our icon. That’s how we achieve innovations that give athletes license to dream, and how we make an art of style that delivers true originality. And that’s why this salute to our heritage represents the foundation of our future.