There’s probably a saying somewhere that goes along the lines of “if it’s cool enough for Don Draper, it’s cool enough for me.” If that saying does exist, it probably applies to Robert De Niro and Tom Cruise, too.
Usually the props used in films are snatched up by those with the most money to throw around – the dreaded product placement trend that we’ve seen so much of in previous years. For sunglasses, we see lots of brand names on the big screen: Oakley, Ray Ban, the usual suspects. But somehow, Randolph Engineering, a Massachusetts born-and-bred sunglasses company, has made the leap from government contracts, to being chosen from among these heavy hitters for a little on-screen time themselves (see the aforementioned Draper, De Niro and Cruise).
One of the advantages the brand inevitably has on the others is a lengthy history. Founded in the 1970’s by Polish immigrants, RE initially focused on designing and manufacturing optical tools and machinery for the production of eyewear. Over time, the founders built out the brand, garnering an impressive array of government contracts. Notably, by the 80’s they were one of the top contracts for military-style aviation flight glasses (move aside, Ray Ban). Since then, they’ve expanded their line to include other military applications, shooting-glasses and everyday street-wear. Impressively, all products are still made by hand right here in the great state of Massachusetts.
I took a quick (read: bright and early) tour of the factory earlier this year to see exactly how they get it done. Of note are the machines they use to produce, bend and shine the product. They're all pretty much standard (with a few upgrades) since the 1970's. Check out some of the better shots from my visit below.