Persol Sunglasses: Purveyors of Timeless Italian Style

Persol Sunglasses: Purveyors of Timeless Italian Style

Renowned as one of the oldest and most innovative eyewear brands of all time, Persol has come a long way from the humble beginnings of a rustic Turin courtyard during the Great War. The brand has withstood the test of time, worn by pilots, race car drivers, celebrities and style icons in the past century. 

This article will run down the past century of Persol’s existence, along with its groundbreaking technology for the sunglasses industry and the big names that are loyal customers of the brand. 

Brand History

Persol is one of the oldest eyewear companies in the world. Founder Giuseppi Ratti came from a humble background. Amid World War I, he was working as an optician for his family’s business called Berry Opticians in Turin, Italy, on Via Cabatto. The people that he met while working were mostly pilots, who would complain to Ratti about the blinding sun in their eyes.

From those conversations, Ratti was inspired to create glare-reducing sunglasses, so he teamed up with a German chemist to develop smoked crystal lenses. Featuring elastic band straps and rubber-lined frames, he introduced The Protector, which was designed specifically for pilots, like the Aviators. 

Persol Original  

This design became so popular — on top of race car drivers and motorcyclists becoming part of his clientele, Ratti also secured contracts with various air forces across the globe. Not long after, in 1917, the brand ‘Persol’ was born, with the name being a portmanteau of “per il sole”, which means “for the sun”.

The development of lenses continued in the 1920s, experimenting with the usage of silica to form its crystal lenses. These lenses were tinted to a yellow-brown tint, which is a signature feature of the brand to this day. 

Persol truly made a name for itself as an innovative sunglasses brand in the 1930s when it first introduced the Meflecto technology. This is a uniquely complex system of cylinders inserted into the stems of the glasses, allowing each pair to adapt its shape to the wearer’s head. This is one of the first spring hinges for eyewear in the world.

This expanded into another innovation called the Victor Flex system, which is where the bridge of the sunglasses, using a series of flexible notches, adapts to fit any face shape. Around the same time, the brand’s trademark Silver Arrow was also developed — inspired by the swords of ancient warriors. This arrow design is most synonymous with the brand to this day, and distinguishes Persol from its imitators.

 Persol origin

From the 1960s onwards, Persol expanded its product range to include work goggles used for various manufacturing industries in Italy, winning multiple patents along the way. The brand also secured contracts with NASA as well as having its products spotted on various celebrities like Steve McQueen. In 1962, the brand made its way into the United States, particularly Hollywood, and was featured on numerous television shows and movies. Its first boutique opened in 1991 on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Persol began to dominate the sports landscape — from pilots and race car drivers to mountain climbers and explorers, many of them would say that Persol was their eyewear of choice for activities like these.

Owner of Silver Linings Opticians and eyewear expert Jordan Silver stated that “every other brand was looking at eyewear as ‘you should wear this as a medical device,’ but Persol took it to another level and the Silver Arrow was a callsign to say that you were a part of the cognoscenti… They’re authentic because they weren’t a fashion brand going into eyewear. They were an eyewear brand and an eyewear brand only. They were what the rich dudes wanted to wear and so other people wanted to wear them because of them. They didn’t have to put a logo or a designer’s name or a fashion house on it.”

In 1995, eyewear conglomerate Luxottica purchased Persol, pushing for the brand’s expansion. Some would say that the Italian brand wasn’t what it once was since the acquisition, even though the brand still produces its goods in Italy. Silver said, “By the late 50s and 60s, they were really that brand to be worn on a transatlantic flight. I think [in recent decades] they lost that, being at airport kiosks, not maintaining the exclusive distribution channels.”

Regardless, the Italian brand has come this far through its innovative products and revolutionary technology — Persol is still a brand that others look up to to this day.  


What sets Persol apart from other eyewear brands is its dedication to innovative designs and groundbreaking technology that revolutionised the eyewear industry forever. The brand devotes itself to creating the highest quality products, with manufacturing still taking place in the historic Lauriano factory in Turin, Italy to this day. One of the processes includes a special one called “telatura”, which was first introduced by Ratti himself. This manual process involved eliminating edges on the underside of the bridge so that it fits better and is more comfortable for the wearer.

It takes twice as long to make a pair of Persol sunglasses compared to a normal pair of glasses because of the various complex parts that are involved: high-quality acetate, patented Meflecto and Victor Flex system, and the signature Arrow.


Persol sunglasses are made out of cellulose acetate, which is naturally-derived plastic from cotton flowers. The cotton pulp is then pulverised and treated to take the form of a perfectly malleable uniform mass, and the end properties retain the original cotton properties like allergy-free, soft on the skin and comfortable. Using natural materials also allows the brand to create unique colour variations that are exclusive to its product line. 

Persol Acetate

Crystal and polarised lenses

The lenses used in any Persol product are crystal lenses made from glass, offering the highest levels of clarity. These lenses are scientifically formulated to offer the best protection against sun rays and absorb radiation that can be harmful to the eyes. 

Persol Lens

 These crystal lenses are also 1.8 super-light polarised lenses, developed using original techniques to shape and temper the crystal glass. Persol polarised lenses are effective at blocking glares and light reflected on sand, pavements and water.  


The most iconic feature of Persol is its patented Meflecto technology. This was first invented in the 1930s, and it is the world’s first flexible stem system — it is still an unsurpassed solution to this day. This technology is created so that any pair of glasses can shape to the wearer’s head, reducing pressure from the arms of the glasses and increasing comfort.

Persol Meflecto

The Meflecto technology uses a complex system of nylon or metal cylinders that are inserted into the acetate stems, intersecting them with a flexible core of harmonic steel. It takes over 10 working steps compared to that of a normal frame. 


Victor Flex System

An application of the Meflecto concept is the Victor Flex system. A similar function that was applied to the arms of the glasses is applied on the bridge of the glasses, so that the pair of glasses can fit any face shape using its series of flexible notches. 
Persol Victor Flex

The flexible bridge consists of the “3-notch bridge”, which is still used in the model 649, and creates a comfortable curve of the glasses with better grip. Newer models have reinforced internal metal that allows the length and curve to be adjusted. 


Supreme Arrow

To differentiate Persol from its competitors and make its products iconic and recognisable, Ratti invented the Supreme Arrow towards the end of the 1930s, stating that “this will be my warhorse”. This was inspired by the swords of ancient warriors and the Silver Arrow is now a symbol for the brand that has been copied numerous times by others. The Arrows design is used as a hinge.

Persol Arrow

The first rendition of the Arrow is a simplified version called Simplex. It has now evolved through various design and technical adjustments, with over 30 different variations. Even the latest Silver Arrow includes numerous types like the Supreme 85, Supreme 60 mini and Supreme 45. The “Supreme Arrow” is most synonymous with the brand.

In 2016, there was a tremendous amount of work redesigning the Arrow, focusing on lightening in terms of weight and aesthetics. The latest version of the arrow is 26% shrunken of the former flex hinge while retaining all the main features of flexibility and resistance.  

Persol Arrow

Top Persol Designs 

In the past century, there’s no doubt that Persol has come up with extraordinary products using its various advanced techniques. Some of the top Persol designs to this day include those that were invented during the first couple of years of the brand’s existence.

649 Series

Arguably one of the most famous designs of the brand is the 649. Introduced in 1957, it was originally designed as eyewear protection from dust, debris and glare for tram drivers in Turin and became extremely successful. It was even featured in a movie called Divorce Italian Style in 1961. The 649 features all of Persol’s trademarks, including the Silver Arrow, Meflecto and Victor Flex. 

Persol 649

The 649 has a wider profile with thicker temples and frames — the PO9649S is a trimmed-down version of the 649, with a less prominent bridge as well.  There was also a 9649SG Limited Edition series for Persol’s 100th anniversary. It has a small production run of only 200 handmade models and used 18-carat gold for the very first time, with gold etching on the inside of the temples and the Gold 750 mark on the base of the signature Arrow hinges.  

714 Series

Another signature frame is the 714, originally made as the foldable version of the 649. It boomed in popularity, along with the brand name, when Steve McQueen wore it in the 1968 Thomas Crown Affair movie. This design is the first-ever foldable sunglasses in history. 

The 714 is a sleeker set of glasses compared to the 649 — it has thinner rims, more slender stems, flatter (yet still contoured) brow line and a bridge that’s more carved out. There are hinges at the stems as well as the bridge, which allows the glasses to fold into themselves into a compact form.

Persol 714

As a homage, there is a 714 Steve McQueen series, which is an upgraded version of the original 714 series. As with the original series, sunglasses in this upgraded series feature polarised crystal lenses with Persol’s signature Supreme Arrow motif. The Arrow is not only on the hinges where the stem meets the lenses but also at the hinges within each stem — an extra touch of detail. 

 714 Steve McQueen

Cellor Series

During the post-war era, Ratti set his mind to creating groundbreaking protective masks for skilled labourers across Turin. Some of the most iconic frames that came from that are the Cellor Clubmaster frame, featuring Persol’s trademark cellulose acetate for the brow line and a rimless bottom half, along with the silver Arrow hinges. Products in this line feature a metal bridge and plastic nose pads. This style of frame in the Cellor series has been copied countless of times over the years. 

Persol Cellor 

Galleria 900

Persol brought back designs from the 1940s with the Galleria 900 line, offering these designs in both optical and sunglass versions. The vintage acetate patterns are shaped into compact proportions and all designs feature the classic key bridge, Meflecto temples and Arrow hinges.

 Persol Galleria

Key West Collection 

Taking inspiration from the Florida travel destination, the Key West Collection features rectangular-shaped frames with hints of the ‘90s edge. One of the most significant design features in this collection is the thick metal top bar. The first collection features all-metal construction while the Key West II offers a combination of metal frames and acetate rims.

Persol Key West 

Metal Capsule

While Persol’s acetate frames take up the top positions of best products by the brand, the Metal Capsule — featuring thin frames made of metal with acetate at the end of the stems — is also very popular. The frames in this collection come in various lens types and metal finishes, and frames can range from rounded ones to semi-octagonal.

Persol Metal

3 Lenses

The 3 Lenses series is a unique one compared to Persol’s other lines. Before the invention of a single-lens shield, the brand attempted to design sunglasses that would fully mask the wearer’s face by adding a third lens in between the two eye lenses and securing it with a top brow line. There are two versions: the PO3217S and the square version PO3223S.

Persol 3 Lens

Reflex Edition

Tapping into the inner photographer, the Reflex Edition is inspired by classic vintage cameras. Frame designs include squarish lenses with acetate rims and bridges like the PO3124S, as well as others that are more decorative with acetate rims, a metal bridge and the Silver Arrow at both lens hinges, like the PO3046S.

Persol Reflex

Titanium Collection

Among the dozens of collections is the Titanium Collection, which is a seamless combination of Persol’s Italian design with Japanese craftsmanship. Frames in this collection are slimmer and sleeker, featuring titanium frames, as the name suggests. There are four types of shapes: oval, hexagonal, double bridge and round.

Persol Titanium

Iconic Collaborations

In the past century, Persol has had numerous collaborations with big-name athletes, brands and celebrities including Moschino, Emmanuel Ungaro and Steve McQueen. Here are some of the top, most iconic collaborations with the brand:

La Casa de Papel

For decades, the brand keeps a close relationship with film and TV. One of the most popular TV shows of recent times is the Netflix original series La Casa de Papel, also known as Money Heist. The show follows a group of criminals taking over the Spanish mint and printing their own money. The main character, the Professor, is seen wearing Persol sunglasses throughout the series. The collaboration with Persol offers a limited edition series of eyewear featuring sunglasses with a double bridge acetate design — one of the three renditions even has 24k gold plating.

LCDP X Persol


Another great collaboration of Persol is with A.P.C. to come up with a three-piece collection. It takes the iconic and classic 649 and renders it in unique, limited-edition colour ways. Two of the three designs offer transparent acetate frames and a third one with an opaque, all-white form inspired by Kurt Cobain. All of the lenses are crystal gradient lenses.

APC x Persol

Dolce & Gabbana 

Persol collaborated on an exclusive collection with another Italian brand Dolce & Gabbana. The collection features dazzling designs in fresh summer colours, inspired by the rich history of the two Italian icons. The fusion of Persol’s iconic style and Dolce & Gabbana’s creativity rested in a range of eye-catching optical frames and sunglasses. 

D&C x Persol

Celebrities Wearing Persol

Persol has been fronted by some of the greatest celebrities and icons of all time, especially sporting stars thanks to its adrenaline-fuelled origins. Being an Italian brand with deep roots in Italy to this day, it’s no surprise that many Italian big-names are still big supporters of the brand. 

Celebrities who have worn Persol include Juan Manuel Fangio, Steve McQueen, Muhammad Ali, Jay Z, Ryan Gosling, Alessandro Del Piero, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Zac Efron, Bradley Cooper and Leonardo Di Caprio. Below are images of celebrities seen in Persol:

Zac Efron

Zac Efron in Persol

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper in Persol

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen in Persol

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali in Persol

Leonardo Di Caprio

Leonardo in Persol

Jay Z

Jay Z in Persol

Megan Fox

Megan Fox in Persol

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig in Persol

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling in Persol

Ian Somerhalder 

Ian Somerhalder in Persol

Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart in Persol

Chris Pine

Chris Pine in Persol

Emma Stone

Emma Stone in Persol


There’s no arguing that Persol has revolutionised the sunglasses industry forever with its patented technology. The brand made its mark in history and deserve the success it has been receiving over the decades. With loyal supporters that include big names, many all over the globe are waiting to see what Persol comes up with next. 

Back to blog