The sunglasses were invented by the Inuit and Yupik people – formerly known as Eskimo – more than 2,000 years ago.
They were the first to use goggles that protected their eyes from the glare of the sun’s rays reflected in the snowy Arctic wilderness. It has been proved instrumental in preventing severe pain and sometimes even blindness.
Traditionally, the Inuit sunglasses have been carved out of driftwood, whale bones, elk antlers, or walrus ivory, with narrow horizontal slit or slits designed to reduce the amount of glare to a tolerable level.
The goggles must fit tightly against the face or sunlight will penetrate, hence each piece is custom made to fit a specific wearer’s face. Soot is sometimes applied to the inside to help cut down on glare.
Bonus fact 1: the slits are designed to balance two conflicting needs – reduce the amount of light on the one hand, and provide good visibility on the other. The greater the width of the slits the larger is the field of view. Finding the balance is the art.
Bonus fact 2: It is believed that the sunglasses made their way to Canada some 800 years ago, with intuit migration inland.