Now known as the Clubmaster style — a sunglass variation of the browline style of eyeglasses made popular in the 1950s. In this article, we’ll discuss the sunglass style known as the Clubmaster, it’s history, how to wear them, and of course, our top recommended picks.
The History of Clubmasters
Although many believe that the Clubmaster’s roots trace back to the 1950s, the fact is that Clubmaster sunglasses as we know them didn’t come about until Bruce Willis wore a pair of Shuron Ronsirs browline glasses with tinted lenses on the TV series Moonlighting in the mid-1980s.
Browline glasses draw attention to the wearer’s natural browline by using a dark or contrasting material only along the top portion of the frame and temples. The lenses are typically held in place by a thin metal frame and are of a squared-off round shape.
Shuron Ronsirs originally released the browline eyeglasses in 1947, when they were invented by their vice president, Jack Rohrbach. The goal was to allow the owner of the eyeglasses to be able to completely customize the size, the fit and even the color of their glasses. Made from interchangeable bridges, brows, and eyewires, they were an instant success and dominated the prescription eyeglass industry. The browline look is now synonymous with the era. By the 1960s, Ray-Ban was a fairly large contender in the market and its owner Bausch & Lomb was one of the top manufacturers of browline style eyeglasses.
However, it wasn’t until Bruce Willis wore the tinted lenses that Ray-Ban realized there was a market for a sunglass version. Immediately after seeing them on Moonlighting, Ray-Ban launched the first browline sunglasses, which they called the Clubmaster.
Sales were enormous almost immediately, and despite only coming out mid-80s, they still ranked as the third most popular style of sunglasses sold in the decade, next to Ray-Ban’s Wayfarers and Aviators.
Ray-Ban took every revision of the original 1947 Browline and began offering it as part of the Clubmaster series. From bold brows to lightweight metal caps first introduced in the 1950s by Art-Craft and Victory Optical, the Clubmaster offered a style that could fit elegantly on just about any face shape.
Unfortunately, following the release of the film Falling Down in 1993, the browline style became synonymous with the angry, right-wing American. The downfall was compounded by the typical progression of eyewear trends and soon it became a Hollywood stereotype for geeks and middle-aged men. Fortunately, Ray-Ban was able to monopolize the sunglass market and use product placement in films which separated the Clubmaster sunglasses from the browline eyeglasses which were now considered uncool.
Today, the Clubmaster is experiencing a remarkable revival as a classic yet hip frame. It remains one of Ray-Ban’s most popular styles and is one that is imitated by many brands in the market, ranging in price from just a few dollars to more than a thousand. Popularized by leading Hollywood men, bearded hipsters and classic dressers alike, it is arguably a very chic style for those seeking a refined and vintage look.
Hallmarks of the Clubmaster
Like the browline, Clubmaster-style sunglasses are designed with an upper frame that is thicker or appears bolder than the bottom portion of the frame. Traditionally, the upper — known as the brow or cap — is made from a thick plastic or acetate that is also used on the temples. However, the remainder of the frame, including the bridge and eyewires, are usually made of metal. In more contemporary frames, the design can sometimes replicate a round sunglass but use a lighter shade or different plastic on the bottom to showcase the upper portion of the frame.
They come in a range of color combinations, sizes, and variations, so this is a great classic frame that can suit most face shapes, sizes, and complexions given the range of options out there. Most Clubmasters would have originally come in black or tortoiseshell with silver or gold rims.
How to Wear Clubmaster Sunglasses
Clubmasters are an excellent pair of sunglasses to wear with business attire, but it still lend themselves perfectly to casual wear.
Unlike bolder sunglasses like the Wayfarer, or traditionally sporty sunglasses like the aviator, the Clubmaster has a distinctly vintage look that pairs harmoniously with business suits, blazers and country club attire. As well, they work for a number of face shapes, especially round, oval, and rectangle face shapes. Click here to learn more about how to find the perfect sunglasses for your face shape, how to determine what shape your face is, and how to pair sunglasses with your skin tone.
Here are few tips to wearing Clubmaster sunglasses:
- Look for frames that work with your personality. These aren’t boring sunglasses, so while black is nice to have, a tortoiseshell with a gold lower frame is a great option for the stylish gentleman.
- People will notice a nice pair of Clubmasters. They stand out. Consider them for first dates, outdoor lunches with clients or a garden party at your country club. You won’t be forgotten. You will certainly not be construed as boring.
- Wear them for style, not for practicality. They do let light in, so they’re not ideal for sporting or other activities that require real sun and wind protection.
- Although popular, they are not nearly as popular as other styles like wayfarers and aviators. Clubmaster sunglasses are a great way to stand out from the masses, while still being understated and elegant. No one will accuse you of showing off and Clubmasters don’t have the same stereotype some men face when wearing aviators. In other words, you’ll look cool without trying to.
Where to Buy Clubmaster Sunglasses
Clubmaster sunglasses can be easily purchased online, unlike many other styles that can so easily differ based on the thickness of the frame or the size of it. As long as you have a general idea of the size you need and what colors look good with your skin tone, you should be fine. However, there is nothing wrong with trying some on in the store first.
- Head to a local brick and mortar sunglasses store, which will give you the chance to see how they look in person. Try different colors, sizes, and variations on the frame to find the one that suits you the best.
- Avoid buying cheap Clubmasters, as they have a greater tendency to look cheap than other frames. Inexpensive sunglasses can have weak hinges and a looser construction, which can cause the frames to sit askew on your face.
- The style hasn’t changed much over the years, so consider vintage pairs from thrift stores and online to save money. You can often find some great sunglasses for just pennies on the dollar.
- Consider a pair of vintage frames and have the lenses replaced. Often buying frames separately can save you money. Even though lenses are the most expensive part, most designer sunglasses will charge you enormous amounts for the frames and place fairly basic lenses in them.
Recommended Clubmaster Sunglasses
|Sunglass Model||Brand||Good For Face Shape||Price|
|RB3016 Classic Clubmaster||RayBan||round, oval, rectangular||$$|
|Retro Clubmaster||WearMe Pro||round, oval, rectangular||$|
|Sheridan sunglasses - from your local optician or sunglass retailer||State Optical||round, oval, rectangular||$$$|
|Shuron Ronsir Browlines||Shuron Ronsir||round, oval, rectangular||$$|
|Wooden Clubmaster Sunglasses||Treehut||round, oval, rectangular||$|
|Retro Clubmaster||MLC Eyewear||round, oval, rectangular||$|
|Shuron Ronsir - made to order or from your local optician||Shuron LTD||round, oval, rectangular||$-$$|
Here are our top recommended sunglasses in this style.
Original Ray-Ban Clubmaster
Like the browline eyeglasses, these can be completely customized to your liking. You can truly create a made-to-measure pair of sunglasses if you buy directly from Ray-Ban.
Inexpensive Retro Clubmaster Sunglasses
If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of sunglasses, consider this classic style that’s very reasonable and looks just like some of the more expensive pairs.
Shuron Ronsir Browlines
If you want the originals, consider a pair of eyeglasses from Shuron Ronsir and have tinted lenses put in. This is as authentic as it gets.
Unmistakably rakish and a perfect choice for the elegant dandy, Clubmaster-style sunglasses are enough to stand out in the crowd without looking like you’re trying to. They are elegant, understated and sharp. A pair we highly recommend. Do you wear Clubmasters?