After 36 years, Maverick is back – and so are his signature sunglasses. Thanks to the new “Top Gun” blockbuster, aviator sunglasses have recently gained popularity as a promotional staple.
In 1986, the original “Top Gun” boosted Ray-Ban Aviator sales by 40 percent, according to a blog post on menswear e-commerce site Grailed. With the release of the second film, which grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, it’s no surprise that there’s a renewed public interest in pilots.
“Top Gun,” featuring Tom Cruise as the calf and Miles Taylor as the rooster, has caused a stir on social media. TikTok users raved about Teller’s beard and pilot, resulting in #TellerTok; the hashtag has more than 142 million views. Many male users have documented themselves shaving their beards for the beloved beard and are looking for the perfect aviator to complete the look.
@jessandscottie This gives him pure joy 😂😂😂 #topgun #tellertok #milesteller #rooster #hessohappy ♬ Danger Zone (from Top Gun Soundtrack) – Kenny Loggins
While the aviator style has been around since the 1970s and is still known as a classic, its popularity tends to soar when a trend or cultural event brings it into the spotlight. Product placement is a common practice in the entertainment industry, as companies know that a movie can build a story around a product — which can have a major impact on the business.
“Aviator sunglasses styles are often one of the most popular items to sell when it comes to the hard stuff in the promotional industry. This has been the case for a while,” said Ronald, Chief Marketing Officer, Evans Manufacturing (asi/52840), a Top 40 supplier Williams said.
During Williams’ 18 years in the promotion industry, he has seen many trends come and go. However, those with greater emotional appeal tend to stick with it. “Some things, like aviator sunglasses, are cemented in the culture,” he said.
The pilot can certainly be considered an American icon. Their prolific appearances in TV and movies are associated with “cool” characters, as they are often worn by motorcyclists, police officers and the US military. Characters wearing these glasses often have a free-spirited and unconventional identity that resonates with audiences. It seems that with a pair of pilots, the wearer can do anything and be anyone.
“They have featured in many cultural moments in film and TV, and have a universal vibe that makes them perennial stars,” said Jesse Grey, Pop! Marketing Director. Promotions (asi/45657). “From fighter pilots to college parties, pilots have been around for decades, and they’re popular.”
Gray said that when the entertainment industry sparks a spike in the trend, there tends to be an influx of orders as producers and media companies look to profit from the popularity. “As a TV show or movie really grabs the public’s attention, and smart marketers want to take advantage of that, they stretch their budgets to create branded merchandise to go with the trend,” he added.
Following the trend can also benefit the promotion industry. Williams recently suggested that dealers use “Top Gun” as a slogan in pilot sales events. Customers want to market their salespeople as “top guns,” referring to their drive and success, while tying the product to the movie’s association.
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With so little room for branding on sunglasses, “the lens trim is a cool, subtle touch that people love to add to their aviators,” says Gray. Popular music! Promo’s Pantone matching frames offer more customization options, allowing for the color combination that best suits the brand. With these discrete promotional designs, people looking to follow trends will be more inclined to wear products with logos.
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Aviator sunglasses are far from the only product trend stemming from movies and TV shows. Williams sees a similar correlation between the interest in pocket protectors — jackets for shirt breast pockets designed to hold writing implements — and the popularity of The Big Bang Theory. At the peak of the show, sales of accessories were higher than ever, he said.
Cruise promoted another style of sunglasses in “A Risky Business,” featuring the Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer Classic in the 1983 film. The appearance of this style in the film 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 have influenced fashion. Items such as leather jackets, flapper skirts, pearls, oversized glasses, and beige trench coats have become timeless icons for their permanence in TV and film.
The entertainment industry continues to be a popular platform for products and styles, many of which can be creatively integrated into the promotion industry to benefit distributors and their customers.