Oakley Sunglasses History: birth and amazing growth

Everyone knows the brand, but few know its origins and how it became what it is today: an icon in the sunglasses world. If you want to know more about the Oakley Sunglasses History, as well as the origin of the name Oakley, you should keep reading this article until the end.


Oakley Sunglasses History: Birth

Just as many US companies did, Oakley was born in a garage. This is one of the aspects that make it so romantic.

James Jannard, Oakley founderJames Jannard laid the foundations of Oakley with three hundred dollars. His first invention was a motorcycle handle, and it was way back in 1975 when this handle that he produced in his garage became popular. Made with a hydrophilic rubber patented by Jannard, which he called “Unobtanium”, quickly became famous for having more grip than the rest, even in high humidity conditions.

The best thing is that this component is still used in the manufacture of frames of Oakley glasses.

He reinvested the money he earned with these handles and created more that he applied to bicycles, specifically to the legendary brand BMX. This movement linked Jannard with cycling.

Between 1975 and 1980 he devoted himself to produce handles, gloves, fasteners, and similar appliances for bikes and cross bikes.

It was in 1980 when he launched his first goggle. The O-frame, which were protective goggles at first.

It wasn’t until 1983 when the first ski goggles were developed. From there, Oakley and the sports world went hand-to-hand

Greg Lemond and Tour de France

Greg lemond and Oakley
Greg lemon in 1987, Tour the France winner.

The turning point was in 1985, when Jannard himself decided to sponsor the already known American cyclist Greg Lemond.


Lemond used the mythical Eyeshades during the 1985 and 1986 tours, which turned out to be a complete success for Oakley: the cyclist got the second position in 1985 after a fierce battle with the legendary Bernard Hinault; 1986 was the year of his recognition, since he won the French round ahead of Hinault himself. He was a milestone for the American cycling, becoming the first “yankee” to win the world’s most important cycling race. And what glasses was he wearing when this historic event occurred?

The eyeshades were more like a ski goggle than anything else. But they became the final takeoff of Oakley in the field of sports glasses, and more specifically in cycling eyewear.

Lemond had a hunting accident in 1987 which left him out of the competition for a while.

During this time, the design of Oakley cycling glasses evolved significantly, and in 1988 Oakley Blades emerged, and then the Razor Blades

A much lighter, innovative and with the fundamental characteristic of having an interchangeable lenses design. This was a novelty, because one could wear “new glasses” every day with the same mount.

Lemond won the Tour in 1989 again, and everyone remembers the legendary race against the clock between Versailles and Paris, in which the Californian rider defeated the French cycling legend Laurent Fignon by only 8 seconds.

Oakley sunglasses were back on the face of the Tour winner: a priceless publicity.

Since then, other brands mimicked the Oakley Razor blades design, but Jannard had the honor of being the pioneer.

Oakley sunglasses History – Great public

Oakley launched a series of models for the public in the early 90s, always with a sporty design. The Oakley glasses highlighted impact, comfort and colored lenses.

It was the time of the great competition between the two glasses giants in North America and the rest of the world: Ray-Ban and Oakley.

It was the time of Balorama against Juliet. To make a comparison, you could either support Ray-Ban or Oakley, just like one can only be a Magic Jhonson or Larry Bird fan.

We could say that Ray-ban won, but Oakley was always true to its essence and kept its loyal audience.

Oakley began selling shares to the public in 1995 and reached a sales figure of 230 million dollars. At that time, he had a dispute with its main distributor in Europe, Luxxotica, and this made it lose great benefits.

Since then, Jannard disassociated himself a little from the company to start his other great emporium, the RED film cameras.

The arrival of Oakley Holbrook

Replacement Lenses for Oakley HolbrookThe now legendary Oakley Holbrook was launched around 2005. And as it could be guessed, its success was related to sport. Plus, it was Valentino Rossi who made it famous, and after the great Italian rider, many other outstanding athletes, including Fernando Alonso, used the Holbrook.

This goggle, despite maintaining the sporty lines and striking colors of Oakley, has a less aggressive design than traditional models of Oakley.

Since then, based on its success, the company opted for models which were more “casual” for their glasses addressed to the public.

Therefore, Oakley remains faithful to its spirit and its cycling and sports sunglasses line, like Radalrock. It also uses the mass market to launch more conventional models like Holbrook or its predecessors, Frogskins.


Origin of the name Oakley

There is a theory that the name of Oakley has its origin in the two cities where Jannard moved: Oakland and Berkeley. But there is another related to Jannard’s dog name back in 1975. Perhaps he named his dog after these two cities, right?


Oakley is definitely a company of sunglasses with which people identify. As I mentioned before, wearing Oakley means something sentimental, as it happens with soccer.

What about you? Do you like Oakley?

If this article has helped you to know more about the Oakley Sunglasses History, we would very pleased if you share it in your social networks.

Thank you


  1. Hello, did you know that Jim Jannard aslo founded the company whoy developed the RED cinema camera?
    He is a “shark” of the bussiness.

    1. Yes Liam, We knew it. Yeah, no doubt he is a “killer”. Thanks for your comment.

  2. […] beginning of the 80s, Oakley has been innovating in this field. The article where we talked about Greg Lemond and the Oakley History mentions innovation from the first moment of this great brand. The Razor Blades became an entire […]

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