After 36 years, Maverick is back – and so are his iconic sunglasses. A promo staple, aviator shades have recently gained popularity, thanks to the new “Top Gun” blockbuster. Hot mustache styles.
In 1986, the original “Top Gun” boosted sales of Ray-Ban aviators by 40%, according to a blog post on menswear e-commerce site Grailed. With the release of the second movie grossing over $1 billion globally, it’s no surprise that there’s been renewed public interest in aviators.
“Top Gun,” featuring Tom Cruise as Maverick and Miles Teller as Rooster, has been making a splash on social media. TikTok users fawned over Teller’s mustache and aviators, giving rise to # TellerTok ; the hashtag has more than 142 million views. Many male users recorded themselves shaving their beards to attain the beloved mustache and were in search of the perfect pair of aviators to complete the look.
While the aviator style has been around since the 1970s and is still referred to as a classic, its popularity tends to spike when a trend or cultural event brings it into the limelight. Product placement is a common practice in the entertainment industry, as companies know that movies can build stories around products – which can have big effects on business.
“The aviator sunglasses style has generally been one of the more popular selling items as far as hard goods in the promotional industry. It has been that way for a while,” says Ronald Williams, chief marketing officer at Top 40 supplier Evans Manufacturing (asi/52840).
During Williams’ 18 years in the promo industry, he’s witnessed many trends come and go. Yet, the ones with greater emotional appeal tend to stick. “There are some things, like aviator sunglasses, that are cemented in the culture,” he says.
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Aviators can certainly be considered an American icon. Their heavy presence in TV and movies is associated with a “cool” persona, as they’re often worn by motorcyclists, police officers and the U.S. military. The characters who sport these glasses tend to have a free-spirited and rule-breaker identity that resonates with viewers. It seems that with a pair of aviators, the wearer can do anything and be anyone.
“They played a part in so many cultural moments in film and TV, as well as having a general vibe attached to them that makes them a perennial star,” says Jesse Grey, marketing director at Pop! Promos (asi/45657). “From fighter pilots to college partiers, aviators have been around and in vogue for decades.”
When the entertainment industry triggers a spike in the trend, Grey says there tends to be an influx of orders as producers and media companies look to cash in on the popularity. “As a television show or movie really captures the public’s attention, smart marketers want to capitalize on that and they extend their budgets to creating branded merchandise to ride that wave,” he adds.
Hopping on board with the trend can benefit the promo industry, as well. Williams recently advised a distributor to use “Top Gun” as a slogan in an aviator sales campaign. The client wanted to promote its salespeople as “top guns,” referring to their drive and success, while tying together the product’s association with the movie.
Evans Manufacturing’s classic aviator frames (920) feature dark, ultraviolet-protective lenses with a UV 400 rating.
Since sunglasses have minimal space for branding, “Lens decoration is a cool, subtle touch that people like to add to their aviators,” Grey says. Pop! Promo’s Pantone-matched frames provide more customization options, allowing for color combos that best suit the brand. With these discrete promo designs, people looking to hop on the trend will be more inclined to wear a logoed product.
Pop! Promos’ classic aviator sunglasses (PMA100) allow companies to take advantage of the “Top Gun” trend while sporting a subtle logo that end-users will appreciate.
Aviator sunglasses are far from the only product trend spawned from movies and TV shows. Williams saw a similar correlation between interest in pocket protectors – the sheath for a shirt’s chest pocket, designed to hold writing instruments – and the popularity of “The Big Bang Theory.” During the peak of the show’s run, sales of the accessory were higher than ever before, he says.
Cruise promoted another sunglass style in “Risky Business,” sporting the Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer Classic style in the 1983 movie. This style’s appearance in films is credited with saving the Ray-Ban brand from extinction.
“Grease” (1978), “The Great Gatsby” (2013) and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) are all classics that influenced fashion. Items like leather jackets, flapper skirts, pearls, oversized glasses and beige trench coats are timeless icons because of their persistence in TV and movies.
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The entertainment industry continues to serve as a platform for products and styles to gain popularity, many of which can be creatively integrated in the promo industry to benefit distributors and their clients.