Who doesn’t love a pair of tinted sunglasses that would complete your beach summer look? Not only would they protect your eyes from the glares of the sun, but they would also make you look cool and trendy. In fact, they have now been considered a fashion staple, but before they turned into that, sunglasses actually had military roots that not many of us are aware of. Here’s the journey of how sunglasses evolved and changed the military.

Started With the Romans

Known as an innovative civilization, it was not a surprise that the Romans came up with the idea of sunglasses. Nero, an ancient Roman emperor from 54 AD until 65 AD, was known to be near-sighted. Not only that, but the glare of the sunlight also gave him trouble from watching fights, and so to solve this, he used emeralds to design and make the very first, and perhaps most expensive, pair of shades. From then on, only the wealthiest of Rome people wore shades because they primarily used concave emeralds.

On the other hand, the Inuits of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland protected their eyes from snow blindness: damage to the eyes caused by snow reflecting the sunlight. They did so by using circular pieces of ivory or antler with tiny slits carved out to see. Not only did these protect their eyes from the glare, but they were also useful in keeping the snowflakes and other teeny tiny debris from getting into their eyes.

An Inuit wearing snow goggles. (Julian Idrobo from Winnipeg, CanadaCC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Civil War

Jump forward to the Civil War when the first modern sunglasses were used by soldiers from both the Union and Confederate sides, spending much of their time under the intense heat of the sun as they traveled by foot. At that time, the purpose of these shades was to keep the wearers comfortable and well aware of their surroundings.