Oakley: More than meets the eye


“Inventions wrapped in art. Oakley was founded on that idea, and it still defines us.”


Oakley is about more than products.

Sine 1975 they have been able to build a brand that is as much about people and athletes than it is about sunglasses and goggles. Oakley has become a socially accepted brand and it all started when a ‘mad scientist’ (defined by Oakley themselves) called Jim Jannard sat back and asked “Who made these rules, anyway?” With an initial investment of $300, Jannard set out to challenge convention and Oakley was born. Fast forward to 2014 and athletes such as Oakley rider Nicolas Muller huck the untouched backcountry and ask the same questions.


Challenging constraints is what Oakley encompasses. Jim created the brand with the premise of changing not only the physical, but pushing the limits of conventional thinking. Jannard constantly challenged his restricting skeptics with the declaration that ‘everything in the world can and will be made better’. For Jim, it was disrupting what was popular at the time by creating a new kind of motorcycle handgrip with a unique shape and tread: ‘The Oakley Grip’. Drawing on science, Jannard used unique metals, such as “Unobtainium®” that changed the MX scene as aesthetic met necessity.

Art blending with science, performance merging with style: the brand’s movement of merging seemingly fixed items can be seen right back to Jannard’s creation of the name when he blended Oakland and Berkley together. For Oakley, altering the norm is common practice. As a new film about Oakley’s birth summarises: this is a Story of Disruption.

Oakley were the champions and revolutionaries of disruptive technologies and design. Indeed, this is what the likes of Oakley snowboarder Jake Blauvelt believe when he uses the mountain’s natural  landscape as his playground, seeing them as touchable and rideable designs rather than difficult and fixed structures that cannot be altered. Many of Oakley’s athletes think along the same line as Oakley: looking beyond the obvious to set creativity free and forge a radical new vision.

“I always knew we would succeed. That comes from believing in what you’re doing, and striving to do it better than anyone thought possible.”

With athletes such as Jake Blauvelt today enhancing the Oakley ethos, Greg LeMond was the first athlete to approach Oakley.  He became a three-time winner of the Tour de France… wearing Oakley’s eyewear. In 1985, he stepped onto the scene wearing the Oakley Eyeshades. Why was this so shocking? Because many Tour de France cyclists of the time shunned eye protection. In true Oakley style, they shattered the norm and disrupted the whole eye industry.


The Eyeshades not only added style but were built for the needs of the athlete: they would fit securely even with sweat, thanks to Jannard’s Unobitaniuim material. The cylindrical lens shape extended peripheral vision and optical clarity. It became more than a pair of sunglasses, it become a necessity. Thus, a ground-breaking collaboration between sports competitors and a brand was born. In 1980, the ground-breaking O Frame was launched, changing how athletes performed in their field and worn by the likes of Marty Smith and Johnny O’Mara. The elliptic ‘O’ fame of 1980 is still prominent today, as seen on the likes of Jenny Jones and Stale Sandbech.


It is a dual process as Oakley create innovative and market-leading technology in order for the athletes to push beyond what is physically possible. At the same time, it is the athletes’ natural drive to reject the constraints of conventional ideas that inspire Oakley as a brand to act the same way. A mutual and equally supportive dialogue exists between rider and brand.

As Shaun White’s riding demands to push the mountain’s boundaries, Oakley deliver this possibility with their new Shaun White A-Frame 2.0. Polaric Ellipsoid geometry extends the lens’ peripherals while the F3 Anti-Fog treatment keeps any moisture build-up at bay.

ee840d84e6acb2f8Oakley now has over 1000 patented products due to the mind-blowing unique designs. Constantly pushing boundaries, Oakley have just launched the Flight Deck. It’s influence? Those who are never restricted to the limitations of the ground: fighter pilots. The massive frameless lens offers an incredible field of vision with the ‘O Matter’ design adapting to the face’s contours for a darn perfect fit and to optimize impact resistance. Fantastic style meets much needed protection thanks to the Plutonite preventing any harmful UV rays.

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“If you’re going to do something, be brave and jump in, but do something meaningful”.

Motocross, snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing, apparel, electronics, professional athletes… Look back through the Oakley timeline and you see moments where history genuinely changed as the brand pulled the rug out from everyone’s feet. Instead of creating accessories that looked stylish, Jannard and the brand have since created products that are vital to our performance in action sports. Riding to the best of our ability is arguably not possible without Oakley.

Their design motto for the future? “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing”. Oakley are not about producing meaningless products for the mass consumer. They are synonymous with innovation, originality, art and science. This is a brand that challenges us to achieve more and make things better than anyone thought possible, urging us see that there’s more to life than meets the eye…and more to them than just their vast eye range.

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