The History of Oakley Sunglasses and Their Deep Connection with Dirt Biking

Oakley sunglasses have become synonymous with high-performance eyewear, renowned for their exceptional quality, innovative design, and cutting-edge technology. While Oakley has gained popularity across various sports and activities over the past three decades, their deep connection with dirt biking is particularly significant.

Why? What is it about the brand that inextricably ties it to dirt biking and other two-wheeled pursuits? In this article, we will explore the history of Oakley sunglasses and delve into their close association with dirt biking, highlighting the key milestones and innovations that have solidified Oakley’s position as a leader in the industry.

The Birth of Oakley

Oakley, founded in 1975 by Jim Jannard and named after his dog, initially focused on producing high-quality motorcycle handgrips. However, it was their shift into eyewear that transformed the company’s trajectory. Recognizing the need for sunglasses that catered to the specific demands of riders, Oakley introduced the Eyeshades in 1984. This was the beginning of their journey to becoming a household name in the world of sunglasses and sports eyewear.

The Oakley MX Goggle

Oakley revolutionized the dirt biking scene in 1980 with the introduction of the Oakley MX goggle. Designed specifically for motocross riders, the MX goggle featured a lightweight frame, impact-resistant lens, and a strap that secured the goggles firmly in place during intense rides. This groundbreaking product not only provided unparalleled eye protection but also set new standards for comfort and performance in the sport. It was a groundbreaking innovation that marked them out as the forerunner in dirt bike eyewear.

Advancements in Lens Technology

Oakley’s continued commitment to innovation led to significant advancements in lens technology through the eighties and nineties. In 1985, the brand introduced the Plutonite lens, offering superior protection against harmful UV rays and impact resistance. The development of High-Definition Optics (HDO) in 1999 further enhanced optical clarity and visual fidelity, reducing distortion and providing precise vision for dirt bikers navigating challenging terrains. The Oakley Eye Jacket featured the first flush-mounted lens orbitals fitted with Plutonite for impact protection. As we moved into a new century, Oakley was upping the game even more.

The technology also began making waves away from the biking scene; Oakley glasses could, and still can, be tailored to suit any need, including polarized lenses, minimizing glare and optimizing visual acuity in bright outdoor environments. The PRIZM™ technology is designed to enhance color and contrast and can be incorporated into their sunglasses for general use across other sports. As Oakley moved into the new century, its appeal began to spread beyond motocross and dirt biking and into other sports.

Oakley and Professional Riders

Oakley’s collaboration with professional dirt biking athletes played a crucial role in solidifying its reputation within the sport. The brand formed partnerships with renowned riders such as Jeremy McGrath and Ryan Dungey. These collaborations not only provided valuable feedback for product development but also showcased Oakley sunglasses’ reliability and performance. If the stars of the track used them, why wouldn’t everybody else?

One collaboration did more for the brand than most. A photograph of Ricky Carmichael became a key marketing asset for the company and was seen on billboards around the country. That helped drive their awareness into other sports as well. It isn’t just dirt bikes and motocross that Oakley has become synonymous with. Valentino Rossi, a star of MotoGP for years, was also a brand ambassador, as was NASCAR’s Clint Bowyer. Moving to sports without engines, golfer Rory McIlroy, snowboarder Jake Blauvelt and basketball legend Michael Jordan all helped drive the company’s global appeal. Today, stars quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes both endorse the brand. Oakley has gone global, spreading into many sports, but it still all began in the saddle of a dirt bike.


The history of Oakley sunglasses and their deep connection with dirt biking exemplifies their commitment to providing high-performance eyewear for athletes. Through continuous innovation and collaborations with professional riders, Oakley has cemented its status as a trusted brand in the dirt biking community, and that has led to it becoming a household name across the world of sport.


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