Persol has long been an optical company knee-deep in silver screen associations. But it wasn’t actually Hollywood that came first – that would come later after the technologically and design savvy Italian optics company introduced its attractive eye wear to the USA in 1962.
America was waiting with open arms. Persol focused its initial foray into an American market brimming with patriotic pride based on its association with NASA – they had been the official supplier to the space programme with their patented “four lens” sunglasses. But, even astronauts couldn’t compete with trendsetting film stars.
Persol created their iconic Model 649 in 1957. Its humble roots were as a piece of industrial product design: they were created specifically to protect the eyes of Turin’s tram drivers from dust, bugs and glare.
Nonetheless, Model 649 made its screen debut in Pietro Germi’s ‘Divorce Italian Style’ in 1961, worn by the suave young Marcello Mastroianni. This comedy was a huge international success, with Mastroianni nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor category. The meteoric mainstream rise of Italian cinema as the chicest of the day and its actors – like Mastroianni– becoming overnight sex symbols in the USA followed almost immediately. And Persol had no intention of being left out of the action.
Soon, Hollywood’s homegrown talent was adopting the fashionable sunglasses, eager to affect a little Italian style. And they weren’t the only ones. Persol’s impeccable record as a producer of high-performance optics for pilots and drivers dating all the way back to its birth in 1917 made it a natural choice for high-profile sportsmen, from mountaineers to footballers. Over the decades, those in the know would readily recognise the elegant design and patented hinge with its silver arrow motif as a sign of unassuming sophistication.
This year joining the long line of film stars – Greta Garbo, Steve McQueen or the singular Ornella Muti, among others– associated with Persol is Clint Eastwood’s own baby boy. Scott Eastwood has been making a concerted effort of late to ensure that he is propelled forward on the fast track towards equaling dad’s colossal career. One of his latest projects is as the newest face of Model 649, a staple in Persol’s stock. There’s even a little film featuring Scott sporting the frames as he ‘auditions’ in a studio.
It’s almost certainly a mutually beneficial arrangement for Persol and Scott. But the illustrious Model 649 already has a career in Hollywood and cinema longer than that of Scott’s dad. Now Model 649 simply has a new co-star.
Persol’s Model 649 in one of its most recent roles.