How About That "Top Gun"? Look Like a Badass in These Classic Aviator Shades

For less than 50 bucks!
Publish date:
May 24, 2013
shoppables, style, sunglasses, Earth Day, pilots, cool factor

Every one of you pretty princesses reading this right now has some silly embarrassing movie that you love to watch over and over, I know it. Don't even try to deny. I’ll tell you mine -- it’s "Top Gun."

Here’s where it gets strange: I only own this movie on VHS, and my dude has (rightfully so) thrown away our old VCR. But I quite cleverly pulled the VCR out of the trash and now store it in my car, bringing it into the house stealthily to watch "Top Gun" whenever I feel like it. I only know this is strange because others have told me so. Top Gun is obviously available for purchase on DVD, but a ton of other amazing movies I own are not. It Happened To Me: I'm a Videocassette Hoarder!

For instance, the all time horrifying/amazing documentary classic “Just Melvin, Just Evil” isn’t even available for sale in any format -- but I have a hard-to-find dubbed VHS copy of it. It's an ass-kicking documentary about a family's horrifyingly long cycle of abuse. It will grab you by the throat and rip your heart out of your mouth within the first 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Some awesome person has graciously uploaded the whole film to YouTube for posterity, all 1 hour and 14 minutes of it. It's riveting and so worth watching.

A warning: This doc is intense, and some of you may find it hard to watch. But it is stunning. It’s documentary filmmaking at it’s truest, most voyeuristic, and finest.

So yeah, how about that "Top Gun," guys?! Not only does the movie feature 2 songs from the never-not-awesome Kenny Loggins, it features a bunch of dudes in my very favorite style of sunglasses ever -- the classic metal aviator.

The only problem is that aviator shades have become so popular as to be completely ubiquitous. You can’t throw a rock in Hollywood without hitting a trendy girl in giant aviator shades. As a result, now I’m sort of OVER looking at them.

Then last week I was randomly perusing the goods at my local Army surplus store and I reminded myself how cool the original aviator sunglasses are. I’m talking about American Optical’s Flight Goggle 58, introduced in 1958 and bearing the special distinction of being the first sunglasses to land on the moon via Neil Armstrong’s face during the Apollo 11 mission. Armstrong's famous sunnies now permanently reside in a little spot called the Smithsonian Institution.

American Optical is the originator of this squared off, rectangular aviator frame style. Many people confuse Randolph Engineering’s nearly identical copy (at 3x the price!) of American Optical’s 1958 design as the real thing. This assumption was helped along by the prop master of Mad Men putting Don Draper in a pair of Randolph shades in the series, when in fact Randolph didn’t even start making sunglasses under their own name until 1982 at the earliest! (Can anyone say PRODUCT PLACEMENT?) Don (were he a real person) would have worn American Optical's Flight Goggle 58 during the time period in which Mad Men is set, no doubt.

Obviously continuity and authenticity in television and film is my JAM. Some other famous appearances of American Optical's '58 style aviator in movies: on Robert Duvall as Col Kilgore in Apocalypse Now and Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. These are some of my favorite badass characters in movie history -- so of course I want to look just like them. Even if I'm a girl.

I am wearing the 52mm size -- they also come in a larger 55mm and even a 57mm size. They make the Original Pilot sunglasses in 4 different frame colors and 7 lens colors, but I am a purist: they've gotta be either silver with grey lenses or gold with green lenses, with the classic "bayonet" arms. Accept no other combinations!

I had a pair back in high school (that I swiped from my dad!) that I'd still have today if someone hadn't then swiped them from me. They are sturdy as hell, last forever and you can actually buy replacement parts for them -- which is such a novel idea. No manufacturers stand behind their products anymore! It's just "Well, throw it out, it can't be fixed." It's wasteful and so disgraceful.

Here's a hot tip I learned the hard way -- be sure to put them in the case with the lenses facing down. There is a hard edge on the other side of the case that could scratch them.

American Optical products are made in the good old U S of A. Get yourself a pair and be a badass too. (Purchase of fighter jet and bomber jacket totally optional.)

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison