The widely held belief that President John F. Kennedy wore Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses is just plain wrong. For the bulk of his time in office, he wore iconic tortoise shell shades, but if you look closely, you’ll see that they’re not Wayfarers. Look at the metal rivets in this photo from the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum and you’ll see that his shades have metal details on the sides as well as the front – not so for the Wayfarer.
So what model are they? Well, the Kennedy Library and Museum holds two pairs of president’s sunglasses in its collection. One contains the manufacturer stamp ”American Optical” along with the model/color marking “True color Polaroid tc74-51”. The other bears the marking “Cabana TS 2505” and is most likely from the Titmus Cabana sunwear line. These, however, are not the only sunglasses that JFK owned. Others are in the hands of private collectors.
The sunglasses in this photo most closely resemble a completely different model, the “Mansfield Square,” made by the now-defunct company Universal Optical. Take a look at the specifications for the “Mansfield Square” in the photo below and you’ll see a striking resemblance to the overall shape and the metal details in photo above.
Another company, that claims the ownership of his tortoise pair, is American Optical. Here is what we found at Optical Heritage Museum: “The president had a long relationship with the iconic company (American Optical) dating back from WWII while serving in the Navy. AO even had reading glasses made for him”.
So what about the other sunglasses in the JFK Presidential Library collection? Well, in the photo above, taken in November 1963, just days before his death, you’ll see Kennedy wearing a distinctly different pair of tortoise shell sunglasses.
Clearly, he didn’t limit himself to just one style.
Oh, and tortoise shell plastic wasn’t Kennedy’s only sunwear choice. In the early days of his presidency, he wore aviators, as depicted in this photo from June 1961.
John F. Kennedy Library and Museum: