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Designed by Raymond Stegeman, the Wayfarer design made its first appearance in 1952. Since he had procured dozens of patents for Bausch and Lomb, who is the parent company of Ray Ban, the Wayfarer designer glasses was released as Ray Ban wayfarer.

The designer glasses were a radical departure from the general metallic frames of that time. According to the design critic Stephen Bayley, the "distinctive trapezoidal frame spoke a non-verbal language that hinted at unstable dangerousness, bit one nicely tempered by the sturdy arms which, according to the advertising, gave the frames a masculine look." and they took advantage of the new plastic molding technology and soon became a popular designer frame.

Though Wayfarers enjoyed undisputed leadership in the 1950s and 1960s, sales slowly started to decline for these designer glasses. By the end of 1981, they were on the verge of discontinuation.

Ray Ban came up with a brilliant marketing ploy to reverse the fate of the Wayfarers. In 1982, they signed a $50,000 - a - year deal with Unique Product Placement of Burbank, California to place Ray-Bans in movies and television shows. Tom Cruise wore a Wayfarer in the 1983 movie Risky Business and 360,000 pairs were sold in that single year. The designer glasses also gained popularity among musicians notably Michael Jackson, Johnny Marr, Elvis Costello, Morrissey and the members of U2. Soon, Ray Ban started offering Wayfarer in more than 40 models, which is a far cry from the 2 models of 1981.

The popularity again started to fade away in the 1990s and in 2001, the Wayfarer underwent a significant redesign with its material of construction being changed from acetate to a lighter injected plastic.

The increasing use of Wayfarers among the celebrities and its vintage appeal has brought Wayfarers back to popularity. By the end of 2007, Wayfarers were available in Original Wayfarer, New Wayfarer and Wayfarer Folding Styles. It has again become a sought after style and many online stored for prescription and designer glasses have made sure to keep various models of this frame in their catalogue.