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Peter Sagan’s 100% glasses, Greg LeMond’s Oakley shades and the 7-Eleven team’s gaudy Bollé eyewear—all of them came decades after goggles were firmly established in the pro peloton. Looking through our photo archive, cycling goggles in various forms were showing up in the early 1900s. By the 1930s they were firmly entrenched in the rider’s wardrobe and at the ready for any dusty or rock-strewn road race. European roads in the first half of the 20th century were at best pavé and generally made from tamped gravel. It did not take long for riders to grasp the need to co-opt leading eyewear trends from the burgeoning auto and motorcycle trade. Some goggles looked more akin to something a welder might use, while others were extremely petite.
About 20 years ago I set out to obtain examples of some of the more charismatic, distinct eyewear used by cyclists. Slowly but surely I found a handful of options. One I really had an eye out for was the Dictator brand of goggles out of Italy. They were sold in a handsome, well-adorned metal box and delivered the versatility of changeable colored lenses. Like most ephemeral things, it was easy to find tired and broken items, but well-cared-for specimens proved elusive. Finally, after keeping my eyes passively peeled for more than a decade, I finally found a beautiful pair of Dictator glasses in…Ohio. Go figure. It just goes to show that you never know where the next great find will be unearthed!