The Oakley sunglasses
Back in the past the concept of sports sunglasses didn’t exist. Our cycling ancestors used aviator-style sunglasses to protect their eyes in the cycling events, and yet in the eighties, the much cooler Rayban Aviator were made famous by the Badger, Bernard Hinault.
Much cooler, yes, but far from being safe in case of an accident, as they were never designed to be used in sporting events.
But then, in 1985, and it was not going to be the first time, Greg LeMond had something to show: the first milestone in sporting sunglasses, the Oakley Eyeshades.
Launched in 1984, the Eyeshades completely redefined all the existing concepts so far about sunglasses. They were not only original and eye-catching, but they were entirely made of a new material, almost unbreakable, called Zytel, and available in several combinations of colors for the frames and the lenses. And over the top, the most important: they were safe, designed to protect, and specifically made to be used in sporting events.
As mentioned, the frames were available in several colors, being the most famous one the neon yellow, used by Greg in his first Tour de France victory. He also liked to use one of the sunglasses options, a foam used to absorve the sweating of the front.
The sunglasses became soon very popular amongst the 80’s athletes, and soon the american company founded by Jim Jannard was at the top of the sales lists.
Greg used the Oakley Eyeshades in 1985, 1986 and even in some races in 1989 (yet in the ADR team), as pictured.
In 1989, and coming back to the top since his hunting accident of 1987, Greg surprised again with a new model: the Oakley Razor Blades.
The sunglasses have two versions: Blades (launched in 1986) and Razor Blades, being the main difference in the arms, straight in the blades and having a z-shape in the Razor Blades. They were much smaller and fashion than the Eyeshades, and they were available as well in several combinations of frames, arms and lenses (yes, the arms were also replaceable, so it was possible to have the frame of one color and the arms of a different one).
The sunglasses were also a topseller. Who doesn’t remember Greg wearing them on his way to win the ’89 Tour de France in the last ITT from Versailles to Paris?
Greg LeMond wore those sunglasses from 1989 to 1990, although in 1990 he used a new model again, perhaps the most successful Oakley sunglasses ever: the Mumbo, later called M Frame.
If the Razor Blades were cool, the Mumbo were in a completely different league, as it made look the other sunglasses available in the market as if they were from 10 years ago. Having an M-shaped frame, they perfectly fit any type of faces and they were coolest and most popular sunglasses at that time, amongst different sports.
One curiosity is that they were initially called Mumbo, but due to a litigation with another brand that has already registered the name, it was changed to M Frame.
So, the ones Greg used in his last Tour de France victory in 1990, the neon yellow model with the blue iridium lens, were the Mumbo, while the ones used from 1991 on were the M Frame. Nowadays, the M Frame had been replaced by the mostly used Radar model. One of the most famous pictures of Greg wearing the Mumbo are from the Luz Ardiden stage, where he managed to destroy the race and cut off the deficit he had with Chiappucci to just 5 seconds.
Different models and different lenses, but a common pattern through all the years was the color options chosen by Greg.
Our man liked the neon yellow color, so that was the color he made popular in all the models. For the Eyeshades in his first Tour de France victory, for the Razor Blades in his second one, and for the Mumbo in his last victory in 1990.
The value of these sunglasses is still high on the second hand market, so you just have to look for them in places such as Ebay.com and check a price for one of these neon yellow models…
Lately, Oakley has launched what they have called the “Heritage Line”, which is a special and limited edition of the Eyeshades and the Razor Blades (sorry, no Mumbo…), being available some combinations of frames and lenses. Unfortunately, the color options are not as cooler as the original ones, and for instance, there is no neon yellow option…
The presentation had a special guest: the man himself, Greg LeMond. Who else, you may think? Through all his career, he has been the best ambassador that Oakley may have dreamed of, helping the brand being so popular both in Europe and the States.
Check here for more information about the Heritage collection.
As mentioned in the beginning, this was not going to be the first innovation brought by Greg to the cycling world. The list is pretty long with items such as the hardshell helmets, thriathlon bars, communication systems, power meters and so…
We cannot dissociate Greg, for instance, from the brands he had used through most of his career and that he made famous, like the sunglasses of this article, Oakley or the hardshell helmets manufactured by Giro.
Maybe we could talk about them as well, but clearly, each one of them deserves an entire article…So stay tuned!
By Albert – @AP_LeMondFans