From an initial investment of only $300, Oakley, Inc. has gone from a small brand based in a garage to one of the defining eyewear and sports equipment manufacturers of the last half-century. Founded by James Jannard in 1975 and named after his English Setter, the company started out selling their famous “Oakley Grip” handles for motorcycle riders. Catering to bikers was the beginning, but it was the first step to where they are now.
Everything changed when Oakley introduced a line of motorcycle goggles, their first foray into eyewear. That soon turned into a line of goggles and sunglasses, which evolved into one of the most versatile and fashionable lines of protective eyewear on the market. So how is this revolutionary company still relevant 45 years after its founding?
A Brief History of the Oakley Brand
The early years of Oakley, Inc. were humble and focused on the motorcycle grip that built their reputation for quality. While motorcycle accessories are only a small part of the company’s portfolio now, the original material is still used on many products today. Five years after the company’s founding, Oakley released the O-Frame, a pair of goggles that gained prominence in the sports world. Motorcycle goggles turned into ski goggles, and the race to the top began.
Sunglasses came just a year later but weren’t the standard thin sunglasses you’d find at beach shops. They were geared towards sports enthusiasts and resembled a thinner version of Oakley’s goggles. Soon after, the company released its second successful model, the Oakley Frogskin, which had a more casual style popular in Japan.
By the time the company went public in 1995, it was worth $230 million for its initial public offering. It soon purchased some of the top sunglass producers like Iacon, Inc and was eventually acquired by Italian fashion powerhouse Luxottica. While there are many sunglasses and eyewear brands under this corporate umbrella, few have Oakley’s reputation for fashion and style.
Fashion isn’t the only appeal of Oakley products—the lens quality is second to none. According to Oakley’s website, its proprietary High-Definition Optics lenses are designed for professional athletes who need clarity and accuracy even in high sunlight. While standard lenses often magnify images and alter their position in the user’s eyes, these lenses prevent glare and sun blindness without warping the images.
Oakley also puts their lenses through several tests designed by the American National Standards Institute, which measures eyewear performance, and they earn among the highest marks in the industry.
Oakley Iridium lenses are another innovation out of the company. This proprietary anti-glare coating tints the lenses and comes in a variety of colors ideal for different activities. Black and Ice are best for bright conditions, while Tungsten and Jade are recommended for golfers who need a clear view of the fairway. The yellowish 24K is ideal for fishers, while Chrome and Fire are recommended for everyday wear. All these lenses come in both polarized and non-polarized models.
Oakley, Inc. was born out of a desire for quality sports gear, and it remains popular among athletes of all fields today. The different lens tints offer the ideal eye protection for a variety of sports, including cycling, golf, baseball, and cycling.
While the protection from eye strain and fatigue is important, the biggest appeal of Oakley eyewear for athletes is the increased clarity. This is especially important for golfers or baseball players, where a fraction of an inch can make a big difference in performance.
Oakley, Inc’s style has been described as futuristic and functional, with its sunglasses offering a tighter fit than most other brands. You can rest assured that when you have them on your head, they won’t fly off in the middle of a ride.
Sleek and attractive, Oakley sunglasses mostly rely on black and metallic tones to complement the often bright and striking colors of the lenses. The more casual Frogskins have a traditional look with wide lenses and thin frames, ideal for everyday use.
Oakley offers a full line of men’s and women’s sunglasses and sportswear ideal for different sports and lifestyles. While they have hundreds of standardized models in all sizes, they also have customization options in case your needs are unique. The company focuses on sunglasses for the general population, but if you need specialized lenses, Oakley prescription glasses are also available online through a variety of sellers.
Oakley Inc., Still Strong 45 Years Later
Forty-five years is an eon in corporate times, but Oakley, Inc. has stayed on top of the eyewear market thanks to savvy partnerships and innovative new products. With new models out every year, many people are learning the difference quality lenses make.