A little while back I took a trip to Randolph Engineering to check out their factory and see how the U.S. Navy aviator sunglasses are made. A few extra photos from the Massachusetts manufacturer are below, but click on over and check out the post at GQ.
Comments on “Randolph Engineering | Made in these United States”
Being Infantry, I could never get my hands on a pair until they showed up at the Ft Bragg P.X. I bought a pair, took the lenses out and had ’em fitted for my clear prescription lenses. ETS’ed and wore them through my freshman year. They looked a lot better as sunglasses but they beat the pants off birth control glasses.
I’ve heard of R.E. recently through the blogosphere, but I never realized that they are 15 MINUTES away from my house. I wonder if they have a factory store.
BEST DAMN SUNGLASSES IN THE WORLD! …in my opinion. I have owned three pair over 15 years, and only replace them when they are stolen or lost.
p.s. I have smashed ’em flat, and they bent back to almost perfect shape w/o breaking @ the solder joints.
To me, what’s interesting about Randolph Engineering, is how they are capitalizing on their “new” fame. If you ask any one in the know to recommend some aviators, they’ll always mention Randolph as being the “REAL” aviators that the Top Guns use. Despite this, they were still a little bit of an industry secret and as such, you could get said aviators for about $80 (IIRC). Now I go on their site and they have all sorts of special and limited editions and they are running $170. I mean, good for them, but kind of shitty too.
When I was real little, I wanted very badly to be in the military. My grandparents found a pair of Randolph aviators in a parking lot (this was sometime in the early ’90s). They washed them, bent the frames back into shape and gave them to me. They were humongous on me then, but I have them to this day and they are my favorite pair of sunglasses. And you can’t beat getting them for free, even if it was from the asphalt of a parking lot!
I have a pair that my brother bought for me at Fort Drum P.X. they only cost him $20 a couple years back. Don’t know if he got a deal on them or what, but when I saw that they were $100+ for civilians I thought I had done rather well for myself.
American Optical is supposedly the origin of aviator shades. Favorites of Apollo astronauts and fighter jocks alike. Love to see some light shed on who may be the real deal with these glasses.
I wish they would offer the P3 in other frame colors besides gold.
To Jason: AFAIK American Optical is the originator the the more square-ish aviator frame, who introduced it in the late 40s for the military. I believe Ray-Ban introduced their ‘Caravan’ model in ’57 and these days RE is the largest (though not only) supplier of aviators (squared and teardrop) to the US military.
AO are no bueno…in my experience.
Go to eBay. They have numbers of them on sale new in original wrap for less than $50
American Optical…. the right stuff, no logos… cool as a cucumber.
Thank you for this! Not only is it great to see something made in the USA, but I’ve always been fascinated by the way things are manufactured. I’ve been wishing there was a prime-time TV show that covered nothing but how things are made.
J. Scott / Jason – the “square-ish” model you’re refering to is the HGU-4/P military sunglasses made to mee the MIL-S-25948 specification. This specification was *the only* specification to which military sunglasses were made from 1959 till 2000, though with slight amendments throughout the years. These amendments were the eventual downfall of the specificaiton and the new Air Force Frame sunglasses superceded the old HGU-4/P spec in 2000. The HGU-4/P has continued in service, but are being phased out completely.
As for which company was really supplying the US miltary, the answer is *both*. Throughout the years both companies (among others) have bid on supply contracts. Each has won / been awarded contracts and have supplied the sunglasses. Randolph was actually started by former employees of AO.
If you’re interested in reading more, I posted something about the subject some time ago:
Hope this helps – William S.
I love these, and yes, it is still possible to buy a pair new for just under $100 at some of the online dealers. Naturally, polarized will cost you more. I just ordered a pair of Intruders as I left my last pair on a bench in the Virgin America terminal at LAX. i hope whoever finds them appreciates them.
It took me six months a couple of years ago to track down the swedish agent for Randolph. Turned out he worked full time refueling planes at stockholms second largest airport. I had to pass security and get my pair out of one of his aluminum hardcases. Just perfect.
I can confirm that Naval Aviators are issued RE silver squared framed aviator sunglasses as part of the package we get after passing the first phase of flight school. This package also includes such items as our flight suits, jackets, boots, etc. I lost my original pair in the Gulf of Mexico while stationed at NAS Pensacola, but got my hands on another pair. I’m sure they are caked in oil at the bottom of the Gulf by now.
The post linked by William S. is incredible – the photographs of astronauts sporting their aviators are particularly great.
Fantastic LOOKING but I used these when I was taking flying lessons and they were damn finicky in my opinion. Always loosening and breaking.
–3 pairs later I’m a Rayban guy.
I’ve been a longtime fan of the Randolf Aviators….Haven’t bought a pair in years and was shocked to hear they are going for $100 now! I used to get them from The Pilot Shop for around $60. Crazy. They are worth the $100 tho….classic “never-goes-out-of-style” shades that are well built and will last years if taken care of. Local too!
Comments are closed.