Tom Ford’s Incredible Alternative Pilot Eyewear Designs!

A selection of Tom Ford’s amazingly diverse pilot sunglasses

Tom Ford is one of the biggest fashion designers in the world, with expansive collections of ready-to-wear clothes, fragrances, accessories, and a particularly impressive range of eyewear. It is putting it mildly to say that Tom Ford has taken to eyewear design more than most other fashion designers… The sheer number of incredible sunglasses and glasses in our Tom Ford eyewear collection speak for themselves, but we’d like to say at little more about it here as well… We’ve done several brand spotlights and Tom Ford blogs in the past, so we’d like to look at something specific that Tom Ford seems to do better than any other designer: modern alternatives to the classic pilot sunglass design.

A Little Background about Pilot Sunglasses

Classic Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses

The Ray-Ban brand and the Aviator style were both created by eyewear specialists Bausch & Lomb. Bausch & Lomb was commissioned by a general in the US Army Air Force to develop sunglasses that protected pilots’ eyes from the sun and gave them better visibility than their flight goggles. Bausch & Lomb designed Aviators’ distinct rim shape so that they covered more of the wearer’s eyes than other sunglasses, and they included a double bridge to give them more stability. They also established the designer brand Ray-Ban to market Aviators to the public. Today, Ray-Ban owns all rights to the term “Aviators”, so any other brand’s attempt to design Aviators have to be called “pilot sunglasses” instead. If you think nothing will ever beat the original design, then you’re in luck, as we have an extensive range of Ray-Ban Aviators.

A Little Background about Tom Ford

A drawing of Tom Ford wearing pilot sunglasses, by Inês Arnedo (SourceLicence)

Tom Ford is a fashion anomaly: an American who’s spent most of his working life in Italy, working in the European fashion industry. Tom Ford managed to charm his way into his first job in the fashion industry even though he had no experience or fashion qualifications. From there, he got a job at Gucci and moved his whole life to Milan. After only a few years at Gucci, steadily rising up the ranks, Ford’s talents were clear and he was promoted to Creative Director in 1994. Under Ford’s creative leadership, Gucci thrived and grew into the international super brand we know today. And when Gucci acquired the French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent in 1999, Ford took over as Creative Director there as well.

All of this experience in the European fashion industry is important, because Ford carried it over to his sunglasses designs when he founded his own fashion label in 2006, combining European and American aesthetics seamlessly. Pilot sunglasses have such a strong American aesthetic, which means that many European designers struggle to make the style work for them. Tom Ford’s pilot sunglasses, however, are incredible, and we’re going to look at few of his different approaches to the classic pilot design…

Tom Ford’s Keit Pilot Sunglasses

Tom Ford Keit Pilot sunglasses (Shiny Rose Gold Roviex and Shiny Gunmetal Blue)

The Keit design is a brilliant example of Ford’s modern approach to the classic pilot style. The thin metal frame is faithful to the original pilot aesthetic, but the shape of the rims is softer, almost round, and the the distinctive lack of a bridge across the nose is a surprising design choice that simplifies the overall silhouette and takes it in a new direction. This is what happens when an American designer trained in Europe gives himself permission to riff on a classic design. Ford’s Keit sunglasses tap into vintage and modern aesthetics and the overall combination is a little disorienting — but in a good way!

Tom Ford’s Carlo Pilot Sunglasses

Tom Ford’s Carlo Pilot sunglasses (Shiny Yellow and Red Havana)

If you’re looking for a slightly more traditional pilot design, then Tom Ford’s Carlo pilot sunglasses might be for you. Ford often likes to keep one or two pilot design elements consistent with the original, only to radically change one specific element. With his Carlo design, Ford has replaced the classic metal frame with a fine plastic frame. However, to maintain the style’s vintage look, he’s chosen a classic red Havana pattern and an especially retro shale of yellow. Ford has also made the angle of the rims a little more symmetrical, subtly changing the traditional form to suit his own modern aesthetic. And if you need a little help to spot exactly what he’s done, compare his Carlo designs above to his Rory designs below:

Tom Ford’s Rory Pilot sunglasses (Shiny Black and Dark Havana)

Tom Ford’s Rory pilot design has many of the same design decisions as his Carlo models, but the rim shape is much more orthodox. If you want something new but you think pilot sunglasses just don’t work without the classic top-heavy shape, then a pair of Rory sunglasses might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Tom Ford’s Aiden Pilot Sunglasses

Tom Ford’s Aiden pilot sunglasses (Grey and Brown)

Tom Ford’s Aiden sunglasses take even more liberties with the classic pilot design, but the thin metallic frame and double bridge ties the Aiden design to most people’s idea of what pilot sunglasses should look like. Aiden sunglasses also have a very tough aesthetic, and this also helps them feel more like traditional pilots than they might seem at first. Ford is stretching the formal pilot language as far as it can go and he’s coming up with shapes and ideas we’ve never seen before!

Tom Ford’s Ace Pilot Sunglasses

Tom Ford’s Ace pilot sunglasses (Brown and Lilac)

If you like the Aiden design, but think it’s a little too detached from the classic pilot shape, then you will appreciate Ford’s Ace pilot sunglasses. The Ace and Aiden designs have a lot of the same ideas, but the Ace design’s rims are a little rounder and are much closer to the traditional top-heavy pilot design. Ace sunglasses are also a lot less masculine than the Aiden design — perfect if you’re looking for a subtle, softer twist on the original pilot style.

Tom Ford’s Connor Pilot Sunglasses

Tom Ford’s Connor pilot sunglasses (Brown and Blue)

The last style we’re looking at in this blog post is Connor. Ford’s Connor design is faithful to many aspects of the traditional pilot aesthetic: it has the thin metal frame, the double bridge, drooped, top-heavy rims. However, the exaggerated size and shape of the rims playfully takes a key feature of the original pilot design and blows it out of proportion. It would be easy to overdo this, but Ford’s handles this extreme stylistic choice with grace and subtlety, in part by using a light rose-gold frame and muted brown and blue lenses. Here, Tom Ford is playing with opposing forces, with soft and hard, with masculinity and femininity. Connor sunglasses are a brilliant option for someone who loves the classic pilot design and is looking for an exaggerated version of the original style!


Believe it or not, there are so many more Tom Ford pilot sunglasses we haven’t covered in this article, so make sure you browse our entire Tom Ford sunglasses collection to find all of the different styles we didn’t have time to discuss. Tom Ford’s combination of European experience and American heritage has given him a completely unique take on eyewear design. He’s an incredibly exciting designer and we’re proud to have so many different Tom Ford sunglasses available here at B Sunglasses!