Under the Influence

How a pants-free Tom Cruise rescued Ray-Ban

Back in the early ‘80s, Ray-Ban sales took a dive. The brand needed a life raft. And one came…in the form of a pants-free Tom Cruise.

Back in the early '80s, Ray-Ban sales took a dive. The brand needed a life raft. And one came…in the form of a pants-free Tom Cruise.


"Anti-Glare Aviation Glasses"

One day in 1863, a cabinetmaker loaned his life savings to a lens crafter.

That lens crafter was John Jacob Bausch, who had emigrated from Germany to Rochester, New York, to open an optical store.

The classic and sleek Ray-Ban aviator. (Luxottica/Associated Press)
Henry Lomb, a cabinetmaker and fellow German immigrant, loaned him the money to buy retail space. And on a handshake, the two went into business together. They sold eyeglasses, telescopes, binoculars, and microscopes.

They called themselves the "Bausch & Lomb Optical Company."

When the Second World War approached, the US military was having a problem. With recent advances in fighter plane technology, pilots were beginning to experience extreme glare at high altitudes. As a result, they were developing headaches and vision problems. So the military approached Bausch & Lomb to create special anti-glare aviation glasses.

The resulting lenses were made out of green glass to cut glare.

They were shaped like a teardrop to cover as much of the pilot's view as possible while still fitting comfortably around the eye. Problem solved.

Soon afterward, Ray-Ban Aviators would unintentionally make their worldwide debut.

When General Douglas MacArthur landed on a beach in the Philippines during WWII, journalists snapped photos of him wearing his Aviators.

It wasn't long before the Ray-Ban brand made a seamless jump from military function to fashion accessory.

But "Anti-Glare aviation glasses" didn't have much marketing appeal. So they branded the glasses… Ray-Ban. Why Ray-Ban? Because the glasses banned UV rays.

It didn't take long for Ray-Bans to make their way to Hollywood. While many associate the brand with James Dean and Marlon Brando, the first to sport a pair was actually…Humphrey Bogart.

And...the Wayfarer. (Image Source: stlouisinstyle)
But in the early '80s, oversized, chunky accessories had taken over. Ray-Ban sales took a dive. The brand needed a life raft. And one came…in the form of a pants-free Tom Cruise.

When Risky Business came out in 1983, Tom Cruise and his iconic Wayfarers rescued the Ray-Ban brand.

Sales shot up 50%. Which is incredible when you learn that Ray-Ban was about to discontinue Wayfarers.

Then in 1986, Ray-Ban experienced a full-circle moment. Cruise starred in the film Top Gun wearing the classic Ray-Ban aviators. Bringing the brand back to its military roots.

Sales shot up another 40%.

And today, over 80 years after the birth of Ray-Ban, the company is still rolling with the times while remaining true to its iconic heritage.


Iconic Ink

Sharpie owes a big debt to another iconic brand.

That brand was invented by a Sidney Rosenthal in 1952. His creation dispensed ink evenly from a leak proof glass barrel to a felt, wedge-shaped nib.

Sidney called his invention the "Magic Marker."

Marker meets pen. (Wikimedia Commons)
Commercial artists loved Magic Markers and I have fond memories of walking into the offices of advertising art directors and hearing the squeak of the markers as they sketched ad layouts.

Soon, the general public fell in love with Magic Markers, too.

Now, let's go back in time to 1857. That year, the Sanford Manufacturing Company was founded. It specialized in producing ink and glue.

The company did well, managed to survive the Depression years and grew during the 40s and 50s. Soon ink would become its main product, so Sanford Manufacturing changed its name to the Sanford Ink Company.

Then in 1964, inspired by the chunky Magic Marker, the company wanted to develop a new kind of marker that was more pen-like in size with a fine point.

Next, the Sanford Ink Company did what it did best – it created a proprietary ink that was not only permanent, but could be used on virtually any kind of surface - from paper and plastic to metal, wood, stone and even glass.

It was a huge success.

It's interesting to note that Sharpie took a big jump in the '90s when the $500 billion memorabilia industry exploded and the desire for signed items skyrocketed.

Sharpies can be found everywhere these days – from the pockets of Hollywood celebrities, to inside the White House, to the International Space Station.

But the most memorable Sharpie incident happened on the football field in 2002.

Magic marker, magic moment. (SI archives)
In a game against the Seattle Seakhawks, San Francisco 49er Terrell Owens caught a pass on the left sideline and ran in for the touchdown.

But what he did next would go down in NFL history.

After he crossed the goal line, he reached down, pulled a Sharpie out of his sock and signed the ball. Then Owens casually walked over to the end zone and handed the ball to a fan.

It was like a "gift from God" said the Sharpie brand manager, who estimated the stunt gave Sharpie about $500,000 worth of publicity.

Sharpie: 54 years old and still making a mark.


Prescription Candy

PEZ candy was invented by Eduard Haas in Vienna way back in 1927.

The iconic name PEZ comes from Pfefferminz, the German word for Peppermint. PEZ only came in one flavour back then, so Haas took the first letter, P, the middle letter, E, and the last letter Z.

The classic PEZ dispenser. (Wikimedia Commons)
It was originally sold in small tins and was instantly popular. That packaging wasn't changed until 1949 when a small mechanical container was patented.

And that was when the PEZ dispenser was born.

When PEZ was introduced to North America in 1952, it didn't sell well because of its strong peppermint flavour. So in order to attract kids to the brand, the company created fun, fruity flavours.

PEZ collections didn't become prized until the 1990s, when the first collector convention was held in Ohio in 1991.

PEZ. An iconic brand that has endured for over 90 years.

And by the way, PEZ inventor Eduard Haas was a militant anti-smoker. He created the candy as an alternative to smoking.

And that's why the PEZ dispenser flicks open like a lighter.

It was designed to seduce smokers to change their ways.


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Under The Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio - a 1969 Airstream trailer that's been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O'Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

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