Who’s behind those Foster Grants? The vintage sunglasses of the stars

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Who's behind those Foster Grants - Vintage sunglasses

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

In the ’60s and ’70s, these vintage ads for stylishly affordable sunglasses featured many of the most popular stars of the era — from Raquel Welch to Mia Farrow, Peter Sellers to Robert Goulet.

The brand’s famous taglines — “Who’s behind those Foster Grants,” and “Isn’t that… behind those Foster Grants?” — embedded themselves into the minds of millions. As a result, the company was the #1 manufacturer of sunglasses for many years.

Here’s a look back at some of the celebrities who were happy to be spotted as that mysterious person behind those retro shades.

Isn’t that Mia Farrow behind those Foster Grants?

Mia Farrow has become a name to conjure with. Our delicate task was to discover whether our Foster Grants could conjure with Mia, could play tricks with her celebrated psyche and bring out the hidden her.

With a star so young, we couldn’t be sure. We needn’t have worried. No sooner had she slipped behind her first pair than the metamorphosis began. You can see for yourself.

That’s the fun of sunglasses. We call it the Spell of the Shades. Nobody’s sure why, but that mysterious something that comes over people behind sunglasses is probably the reason so many people are wearing them today. People who’ve never been near a beach, who never come out ’til the sun goes down.

That’s why they’ve got wardrobes of them, where they used to own just a pair. That’s why they’re as popular in Hong Kong as they are in Hollywood.

What’s more, millions of them are Foster Grants. Because we happen to be #1 in the business. Far and away.

Of course, Mia doesn’t care about that. She probably doesn’t even care that Foster Grant ff77 lenses pass strict U.S. eye protection tests, while many of the fancy-priced imports fail. Does she care that we make more styles, in more colors, in more sizes than anybody — from $1 to $5? We do, even if she doesn’t. So there.

Isn't that Mia Farrow behind those Foster Grants (1966)


Isn’t that Robert Goulet behind those Foster Grants?

(If you mean the one who’s a star of Columbia Records, stage and television, sure it is.)

Surprisngly, there are still a few squarish people around who cling to the rational idea that sunglasses are worn just to reduce glare. Or hide morning-after eyes. Or, maybe, confuse the FBI.

They do, of course. But, as the with-it world has discovered, a subtle but definite metamorphosis of the ego (or id) begins the moment a person slips be-hind a pair. A definite increase of cool. An infinite capacity to cope.

Which is what Robert Goulet proved behind some of his favorite Foster Grants in the canyons overlooking Beverly Hills.

Which is why, night, noon, June, January — the cognoscenti are taking fullest advantage of the situation. Whether this phenomenon is psychic or chemical or just what, no one knows. Not even Foster Grant and we’re undisputed top cat in the anti-glare crusade.

What we do know is, we design more, make more, sell more than anybody anywhere. And we en-dow them all (incredibly priced from 1.00 to 5.00) with incomparable ff77 lenses that meet the highest U.S. Gov’t. standards.

But why Foster Grants do what they do, we haven’t a clue. Besides, we’re too busy just trying to keep up with the demand.

Isn't that Robert Goulet behind those Foster Grants (1967)


Isn’t that Vanessa Redgrave behind those Foster Grants?

(Right you are. Don’t miss her in “Camelot,” a Warner Bros-Seven Arts picture.)

To Vanessa and the rest of the Redgraves, the world’s a stage, and they’re playing most of the roles.

To Foster Grant the more roles people want to play, the better. We visited Vanessa at her place in the undiscovered Hammersmith district of London, and watched while she looked through our latest collection.

Just look what happened. Now you see a whimsical Vanessa. Now you don’t. Here she’s caustic. Then saucy. The Spell of the Shades again. Today, everybody wears them. From dawn’s early light till the last goodnight. Sunglasses have become fun glasses.

Being Mr. Big in the anti-glare business, Foster Grant couldn’t be happier. We’re turning out more sunglasses, in more styles and more colors, than anybody, anywhere. And they all have ff77 lenses that more than meet U.S. Gov’t standards and go for down-to-earth prices, from 1.00 to 5.00.

If you feel like playing a role, don a pair of Foster Grants. Sunglasses of the Stars. Come to think of it, you could even pretend you’re a Redgrave.

Isn't that Vanessa Redgrave behind those Foster Grants (1968)

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Isn’t that Peter Sellers behind those Foster Grants?

(The very same. See him in the United Artists film “What’s New, Pussycat?”)

It’s getting harder and harder to tell an old friend from a mysterious stranger. From Balboa Beach to Biarritz, everyone is wearing “shades.”

What’s more, you’ll see almost as many at midnight in January as you will at high noon in July.

Behind this international boom in sunglasses lies a phenomenon that fascinates psychologists and taxi drivers alike: the unmistakable personality change that begins to take place the moment anyone gets behind a pair of these tinted marvels.

Peter Sellers demonstrates. Normally quiet and unassuming, here you see him under the heady influence of six of the season s hottest styles from Foster Grant, world’s largest maker of sunglasses.

Popularly-priced Foster Grants combine the best of both worlds — European fashion and American technology. And their ff77 lenses meet rigid U. S. standards for eye protection that many of even the most expensive imports don’t.

If Sellers’ reactions are any clue, millions of men and women who slip behind a pair of Foster Grants for the first time this summer will be seeing themselves in a new light.

Isn't that Peter Sellers behind those Foster Grants (1965)


Isn’t that Raquel Welch behind those Foster Grants?

(Yes indeed. See her in “Bandolero,” from 20th Century Fox.)

To remove any further speculation, we’ll own up. That is Miss Welch.

But, as you can see, our Foster Grants (known to many as the Sunglasses of the Stars) have done it again. They’ve given Raquel a new dimension. Several in fact.

One moment she’s capricious. Then contented. Now candid. Even coy. That, kind heart, is the Spell of the Shades.

Long, long ago folks wore sunglasses only when they were under the sun. Now they wear them from sun up till sun up. From New Year’s Day till New Year’s Eve.

In every kind of weather. Everywhere. Sunglasses have become funglasses.

We can’t tell you how happy that makes us, since Foster Grant is clearly the leader in the anti-glare business.

We have more styles in more colors than anybody. And they all have ff77 lenses that meet U.S. Government standards for eye protection (standards a lot of expensive imports don’t meet).

Now, if somebody mentioned sunglasses, who would you think of first? Besides Raquel Welch.

Isn't that Raquel Welch behind those Foster Grants sunglasses (1968)

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Isn’t that Anthony Quinn behind those Foster Grants? (1967)

(You guessed it. See him in “The Centurions,” a Columbia Pictures release.)

People just aren’t the same behind sunglasses. Not even the incomparable Anthony Quinn.

We tracked him from California to New York to Madrid, just to see whether or not Foster Grants could work their strange magic on him, could bring out the quintessential Quinn.

The proof is in the pictures. No sooner had he slipped behind his first pair than, abracadabra, he seemed to change. A bit bolder, cooler, sometimes even kinder or faintly smug.

The Spell of the Shades again. Which is why, we suspect, everybody’s wearing them. Everywhere. And very few bother to take them off when the sun goes down or the frost comes to the pumpkin. Foster Grant is #1 in sunglasses.

Those you see here on Tony are only a sample. We make more, in more shapes and sizes, than anybody. Each with our exclusive ff77 lenses (and they measure up to strict U. S. standards for eye protection, while many of those expensive imports don’t).

Take a cue from A.Q.: when you’re wearing your Foster Grants and somebody asks for your autograph, don’t protest. Sign. Life is short.

Isn't that Anthony Quinn behind those Foster Grants (1966)


Isn’t that Carroll Baker behind those Foster Grants?

(None other. See her in Joseph E. Levine’s “HARLOW.” A Paramount Release.)

For reasons still somewhat obscure, people wearing sunglasses are not their everyday selves. Once behind their protective “shades,” they become figures of mystery and romance, both in others’ eyes and their own.

As a result, unexpected possibilities open up. Dramatic situations develop. As Carroll Baker demonstrates.

This widely-noted phenomenon helps explain the worldwide boom in sunglasses. They are now equally at home beside a swimming pool at noon and a dance floor at midnight. Why else would Carroll Baker have acquired so varied — and striking — a collection?

As the world’s largest maker of sunglasses, Foster Grant has combined Europe’s hit styles with advanced American technology. The Foster Grant ff77 lens, for example, meets rigid U. S. standards for eye protection (not always true of even the most expensive imports). Yet Foster Grants are popularly priced.

Predictably, more Americans than ever will be found behind Foster Grants this summer. With intriguing (if unpredictable) results.

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Isn't that Carroll Baker behind those Foster Grants (1965)


Isn’t that Julie Christie behind those Foster Grants?

(None other. She’s co-starring with Oskar Werner in “FAHRENHEIT 451,” a Universal release.)

We’ve been told about a party in Cap d’Antibes where a young man was enthralled by a mysterious brunette in sunglasses, until he discovered, via a friendly whisper, that she was his wife.

Shades do more than make people look different. They make them feel different.

In her London flat, between hops to Wales and heavenknowswhere, Academy Award winner Miss Christie let us watch while these Foster Grants (her favorites) tried their strange powers upon her.

The outcome is evident. Sunglasses somehow put our blinders on bothersome inhibitions and what comes through is something else. An uncanny confidence. A sort of reckless cool.

From the darkling discotheques of Torremolinos to the snow-blind sundecks of Aspen, sunglasses are in. Meanwhile, back in Leominster, we’re beside ourselves. Foster Grant has always been Mr. Big in the anti-glare business.

Now the roof is off. We’re designing more and selling more than anybody anywhere. They all have ff77 lenses that meet U.S. Gov’t. standards and go for unbelievable prices like 1.00 to 5.00. What’s good for the country is good for Foster Grant.

Isn't that Julie Christie behind those Foster Grants (1966)

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Isn’t that Terence Stamp behind those Foster Grants?

(Good guess. Catch him as Blue: A Paramount picture.)

As Mr. Stamp and the tuned-in world have discovered, there’s more to sunglasses than meets the eye.

Slip into a pair and something inside seems to click. A heightened self-awareness. A subtle increase of confidence. Of coolth.

These pictures, taken recently on villa-laden Appia Antica outside Rome, reveal just how our latest Foster Grants wrought their magic on Terence.

That’s why they’re called the Sunglasses of the Stars. Sunglasses have become fun glasses. And everybody, everywhere, is wearing them. Foster Grant, #1 in the anti-glare crusade, is tickled pink.

We make more shades in more styles and more colors than anybody. Anywhere. All with ff77 lenses that pass the most rigid U.S. Gov’t standards for eye protection (standards a lot of those expensive imports flunk). All with down-to-earth price tags.

Pick up a pair of Foster Grants next time you’re downtown. If they’re moving, smile. It may be someone you know.

Isn't that Terence Stamp - Who's behind those Foster Grants (1968)


Isn’t that Elke Sommer behind those Foster Grants?

(If so, don’t miss her in “The Oscar,” a Joseph E. Levine presentation.)

The suspense is killing, so we’ll ‘fess up. It is Miss Sommer.

But you’ve got to admit that, despite her singular talents, there was a split second when you wondered. And that’s the power of sunglasses.

Our 1966 Foster Grants have wondrously worked their magic upon her. Elke changes. Looks and mood alike. Coy. Arch. Petulant. Commanding. That, dear friend, is the Spell of the Shades.

The day of strictly utilitarian protection from the dastardly glare of the sun is gone. Now sirens like Sommer, from the land of the Black Forest (where we cornered her) to the
land of the Rising Sun, are sporting a different pair with every vapor, every ensemble, every time of day.

Winter and summer. Sunglasses are in. We at Foster Grant are beside ourselves. Since we are the undisputed king-of-the-hill in sunglasses, this international boom really hits us where we live.

And we’re happy that Foster Grant’s unique ff77 lenses meet strict U.S. standards for eye protection while many of those fantastically expensive imports don’t) are adding more mystery and romance to Elke and her ilk. Does that include you?

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Isn't that Elke Sommer - Who's behind those Foster Grants (1966)


Who’s behind those Foster Grants?

Here’s one of their well-remembered TV ads from the ’70s, following the same theme.

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The history of the Foster Grant company

By Milton Moskowitz – The Miami Herald (Miami, Florida) January 19, 1975

Companies are like people: They often race furiously to end up just where they started. To illustrate, let me relate to you today the saga of Foster Grant.

In 1897, the Samuel Foster family was among the early Jewish immigrants to this country. They came here from Austria, settling first in New York City. The eldest Foster son — Samuel Foster Jr. — was then 14.

The Fosters soon drifted north to Providence, R.I., where the father operated a grocery, and where young Sam grew up as a teenager, and then went to work for a local costume jewelry maker.

Who's behind those Foster Grants sunglassesIn 1907, when he was 24 and married, Sam Foster answered a help-wanted ad that was placed by the Viscoloid Co., the largest comb maker in America. Viscoloid was based in Leominster, Mass., the “comb capital of the world.” He was hired at $25 a week.

HE STAYED AT Viscoloid for 12 years before breaking away to set up his own company, which worked with the same material used by Viscoloid and other companies, cellulose, the first plastic.

It was not a propitious time to open such a business. Irene Castle, the famous dancer of that time, had bobbed her hair, igniting a style change that resulted in the shutdown of half the comb factories in Leominster.

Foster’s plant was one of the survivors. It switched from combs to costume jewelry. It landed a big order for plastic dice. It landed an even bigger order for a memo pad that had a pencil attached to it in a plastic tube.

Foster Manufacturing became Foster Grant when Foster formed a partnership with a salesman, William Grant, who departed after only three months. Despite Grant’s departure, the company’s name was never changed.


THE COMPANY’S big breakthroughs came in the 1930s. It was the first to mass-produce sunglasses. And it was the first in this country to make plastics by injection molding, working first with a machine imported from Germany. It later developed its own machines.

By 1969, when the company was 50 years old, Foster Grant was easily the largest employer in Leominster, the nation’s top producer of sunglasses, the third-largest maker of polystyrene, and the fourth-largest producer of styrene. Its sales passed the $100 million mark in 1972.

Sam Foster did not live to see this milestone, nor did his son, Joseph, who succeeded him as head of the company. Sam died in 1966 at the age of 82. Joseph died in 1971.

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