How Oakley Eyewear Became an Iconic Staple of Tactical Pros

If you know anyone from the military or are familiar with military movies or TV shows, you understand how vital eyewear is for tactical pros. These devices protect and enhance soldiers’ vision during missions and military exercises in extreme conditions, especially from intense heat and dust storms. Given this, it’s no wonder insights from Allied Market Research point towards a considerable rise in demand for military eyewear as governments increase their orders.

As military eyewear equipment has to be developed for high performance and rugged conditions, many military operations partner with specialty manufacturers to supply premium eyewear. One notable name in the industry includes Wiley X, which mainly caters to the military, law enforcement, and outdoorsmen and women. But while it has been a standout name in the niche industry, another brand has extended its reach in a more mainstream way: Oakley.

What is Oakley, and how did it get so popular?
First started by James Jannard in 1975, Oakley was a brand that initially sold motorcycle grips. Unlike other products, the proprietary material Jannard used provided exceptional traction, especially when wet. This material was later patented as Unobtainium®, which was later used for specific temple tips and nose pads. From there, the company expanded its collection from gloves to goggles, catering to the BMX industry.

Eventually, Oakley created its famous Eyeshade models, which were a massive hit among cyclists. This spurred the development of the durable and sleek sunglasses we know. The iconic “O” logo first entered pop culture through action movies like Black Hawk Down and Mission: Impossible II in the 90s, encouraging the public to get their own pair.

Today, Oakley is a company known for its fashionable sunglasses, operating as an independent subsidiary of EssilorLuxottica. The business has grown to design, develop, and manufacture sunglasses, safety glasses, eyeglasses, and many other accessories, mainly catering to sports enthusiasts and professionals. Whether a wearer is on a skateboard, mountain bike, or climbing, Oakley’s glasses complete the look. Aside from sports, Oakley also officially caters to military units through Oakley Standard Issue.

Ballistic M Frame
One of the most significant breakthroughs of Oakleys in the military came with the introduction of the ballistic-rated M Frame 2.0 in 2006. This model was specifically designed for military use and was durable, stable, and comfortable to wear. It had surpassed the ANSI Z87.1 Industrial Standards for high-velocity and high-mass protection, ensuring user safety. Furthermore, the lenses can change from clear to tinted.

This model was then upgraded in 2012 to the M Frame 3.0, featuring thinner curved arms and removing the Unobtainium® ear socks. The slimmer profile also simplified lens change, allowing users to reuse their frames.

Space Guardians collection
In October 2022, Oakley SI released the Space Guardians eyewear collection to honour the United States Space Force, available here in Australia and around the world. The collection includes the Holbrook and Fuel Cell models, containing subtle elements commemorating achievements, such as the Holbrook sporting a field of stars on the frame. This eyewear also includes Oakley’s Prizm lens technology.

Given Oakley’s history of providing high-quality products, it’s unsurprising how it has evolved into a brand that caters to heavy-duty use for tactical professionals, athletes, and active individuals alike. With technology evolving, we can expect to see further how Oakley will continue to grow and adapt to consumer needs.

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