Giuseppe Ratti founded Persol in 1917 in Turin, Italy with the intention of making advanced eyewear suited for pilots and sports drivers. The eyewear was designed in order to meet their needs of comfort, protection, and optimal vision. One of the first successes for Persol was the creation of the Protector glasses. These featured round, smoked lenses, with edges made of rubber and an elastic band that would be used to attach them to the head. Many air forces around the world, including the United States Air Force, as well as drivers and motorcyclists appreciated the combination of intuition, ingenuity, innovation, and quality. The glasses received widespread recognition for their usage by Major Gabriele d’Annunzio and Captain Natale Palli as they went on their historical flight over Vienna in 1918, and Francesco De Pinedo on his transatlantic flight that lasted about 193 hours. This spoke volumes about the utility and durability of the Protector glasses.
The 1920s saw the creation of the now-vintage Persol yellow-brown lens. A special “en masse” manufacturing process that gave the lens not only its coloring, but also imparted it with excellent UV protection. By the end of the decade, further work on the Protector glasses led to the creation of the company trademark. Persol is derived from “per il sole,” which in Italian means “for the sun.” This trademark embodies the company promise to manufacture innovative, high quality, and easy-to-wear sunglasses that offered complete UV protection. The late 1930s saw a new Protector model, characterized by its great design, crystal lenses, the Silver Arrow, and the Meflecto patent. The Silver Arrow served multiple purposes and was inspired by the swords of ancient warriors. Several evolutions later, the Supreme Arrow was born and would bring the brand international recognition. The Meflecto patent system was the first flexible stem ever created, involving the insertion of cylinders that were intersected with a stainless steel core. The result was total comfort and adaptability to any and all faces. It proved to be so effective that a variant, Persol Victor Flex, was born. Its 3-notch bridge helped improved fitting to the face. Further adjustments to length and curving were made possible through advancements in the stem system.
1957 was the year in which the model 649 was first made. Its best characteristic was its unique design, which would spawn many imitations thereafter. This model continues to be applied and advanced today and is the epitome of excellent Persol design. In the 1960s, Persol surged to the top of the industry with the new Labor model. This was a pair of work goggles that proved to have many applicable uses, given specific filters. This model in particular garnered a lot of R&D in order to specialize it and make it as accessible and useful as possible. It also got more than 35 international patents. By 1962, Persol had conquered the United States market and was supplying NASA with a four-lens model. The brand got even further recognition when film and TV stars, such as Steve McQueen, endorsed it by wearing Persol glasses both on set and in real life.
The 1980s and 1990s saw Persol testing its products in extreme conditions to verify their utility and durability. Persol glasses were tested in the Svalbard Islands in northern Norway, several editions of the taxing Paris-Dakar race, and the Pharaoh’s Rally in 1991. Additionally, Enrico Rosso and ophthalmologist Paolo Gugliermina wore Persol glasses on their trek to Kun, the Himalayan summit, in 1989. Their glasses were customized for those conditions and no eye problems were found, legitimizing their endurance. Another eyewear line called the Persol Sport was manufactured in 1990 for usage in sports. Jean Alesi, Italian actress Ornella Muti, and supermodel Carol Alt helped endorse the brand by wearing customized glasses.
The first boutique opened in Rodeo Drive in the Beverly Hills of Los Angeles, California, in 1991. By 1994, Persol had expanded to over 40 countries. Luxottica acquired Persol in April of 1995 and continues to today manufacture Persol glasses within the original factory while upholding Persol tradition and ideals. The model 649 in recent times has seen evolution in the form of the model 9649, which retains the shape of the original while simultaneously providing a thinner, lighter profile.
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